School Cafeteria Violations

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A majority of school cafeterias in El Paso County have had at least one critical food safety violation within the last two years. Our partners at the Gazette broke this story.

The Gazette says sixty percent of schools in El Paso County have had at least one critical health inspection violation since 2012. Some violations include evidence of insects or rodents, damaged or spoiled food, and workers not washing their hands.

The county’s largest school district, District 11, said food safety is a top priority. They told 11 News, anytime they get a citation; they work to fix it almost immediately. In some cases, the problems are resolved before the health inspector leaves. They said they make an estimated 24,000 day, and sometimes mistakes happen.

According to the Gazette, Colorado Springs Charter Academy, Fountain Middle School, Mitchell High School and Sand Creek High School all had the highest number of critical violations in the last two years.

Chinook Trail Elementary in Academy District 20 and Globe Charter School in D11, were both hit with noncompliance letters for repeated mistakes, also within the last two years.

Rick Hughes is the director of food and nutrition services for D11, he said in this case, the state made changes to the temperature mandates shortly before inspection.

"There were a couple of critical violations that happened in that period of time that were technicalities that we hadn't written our procedures as such," Hughes said.

He said because they put out thousands of meals each day, they’re constantly doing their best to prevent mistakes and improve procedures. However, some parents we talked to aren't willing to trust the schools.

"I packed my kids lunch because I am concerned with the health and how the kitchen is cleaned, so I always pack their lunch," mom Deb Gilbert said.

D11's executive chef Nathan Dirnberger told us they work through a large amount of internal systems to meet their own high standards.

"Restaurants have more violations then our operation does. Which is probably a shocker to most people, but it's true," Dirnberger said.

"Well my friends we don't really worry about that stuff because we basically trust our school. So, we don't think, or talk about that stuff much," middle school student Mylinh Merkert said.

We are waiting to hear back from District 20. District 11 said they also have schools in the district that are often commended for their food preparation and cleanliness and pass inspections without any violations or incurring any citations.

According to the health department, no schools in El Paso County were the cause of any food borne illnesses.

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