Dirty truth behind school cafeterias

EUGENE, Ore. - Kids eat there every day on their lunch break between classes.

But the latest cafeteria inspection reports for Eugene 4J School District show some unexpected discoveries lurking in some local lunchrooms.

According to the latest cafeteria inspection, 11 cafeterias in the district had at least one "critical violation" - or one that poses a serious threat to health.

Inspectors found mold growing in the milk coolers of lunchrooms at Adams Elementary, Buena Vista Elementary, Camas Ridge Community School, Howard Elementary and Spring Creek Elementary.

Other violations included dishwater sanitizer levels that were either too high or too low.

Health inspectors said they discovered a rodent at Edison Elementary in an area where they thought it could have made it's way into the kitchen.

"I really haven't seen anything that's moldy and icky yet," said parent Kate Willett.

Willett's son, Kaden, attends Buena Vista Elementary - a school where mold was found in the milk cooler.

"You expect that your school's going to be clean and that the kids are well taken care of and the lunches provided would be what you would make at home," Willett said.

"Our cafeterias are actually very well maintained," said Kerry Delf, communications coordinator for 4J Schools.

Delf said all cafeterias are inspected by Lane County more than once a year. She added that violations are taken care of without delay.

"Those sorts of issues come up at a variety of schools," Delf said. "Not surprisingly, you're more likely to find some issues at older schools that have older equipment. We absolutely want to make sure we have that corrected because food safety is a very high priority."

Delf also said 4J schools conducts their own monthly inspections of the cafeterias.

"We do keep all of our food in air tight containers so that it's not exposed to any potential hazard," Delf said.

Eighteen cafeterias in the 4J School District had non-critical violations. Those violations are maintenance and sanitation issues that are not likely to be the cause of a food borne illness.