Councilor John R. Connolly's office
Boston City Councilor John R. Connolly this morning inspected food in four school cafeterias and found frozen beef, taco meat, and cheese that had been kept well past expiration dates printed on the packages.
The issue came to the attention of Connolly after two people familiar with the food service operation approached him with concerns about old frozen food. The United States Department of Agriculture says on its website that frozen food, “will always be safe,” but that quality deteriorates over time. The USDA recommends, for example, that uncooked ground beef only be frozen for three to four months.
“We were seeing things that had been frozen in some cases for two years,” said Connolly, who called for a hearing to investigate this issue at this afternoon’s City Council meeting. “I think that everything was safe. But the big question is, What is the nutritional value of food that has been frozen for years before serving?”
A spokesman for the school department said he was unaware of the issue but would respond when he had more information. The school department did provide a 2010 memo from the USDA.
"Generally 'expiration' dates and 'use-by' dates are the last dates that the manufacturer recommends a food item be consumed to ensure peak quality and nutrient retention," the memo states. "However, there is no regulation requiring that manufacturers mark their products with such dates."
Connolly, the chairman of the council’s education committee, said he learned of the problem during school vacation week and grew increasingly concerned when he saw an e-mail sent Tuesday by the school department’s head of food and nutrition services that instructed cafeterias managers to set "aside” cheese sticks stamped with the date June 20, 2010.
This morning Connolly visited cafeterias in four schools -- Orchard Gardens, Boston Latin Academy, Curley K-8 School, and English High School – and said he found expired food in every kitchen and not just in the freezer.
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