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Food service violations found at Wellesley Middle School

Posted by Derek McLean  September 7, 2011 08:00 PM

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Wellesley health officials found more food service violations at Wellesley Middle School today, in a followup inspection after discovering problems last week in the handling and temperature of cafeteria food.

This summer, the Wellesley School Department hired the Chartwells Food Service to cook, prepare, and serve food for the public schools.

During an inspection of Chartwells’ operation at the middle school on Aug. 31, the health officials found ‘‘very serious’’ violations that ‘‘must be corrected immediately,’’ according to a report by the Wellesley Board of Health.

Health inspectors found several dozen sandwiches kept at ‘‘dangerously elevated temperatures,’’ a lack of proper sneeze guards, pizza that was not kept hot enough, and inadequate log-keeping by staff. The sandwiches were discarded.

During a reinspection today, officials found turkey and cheese sandwiches kept at 55 degrees and hummus at 49 degrees in the school’s self-service refrigerator, according to another report. The sandwiches were returned to a cooler to chill down to 41 degrees, the recommended temperature.

However, other improvements were documented — foods were shielded properly, gloves were worn, and hot foods were kept hot enough.

“I have been in communication with the Health Department and I think that we still have some concerns about food service,” school superintendent Bella Wong said today. “I have appreciated that the department has been very proactive in giving feedback and so we are all working together with the support of Chartwells to be able to satisfy their concerns.”

Leonard Izzo, Wellesley’s director of public health, said the Health Department has been issuing reinspection fees, rather than fines. “We haven’t issued any fines as of yet. It’s not to say that we are not going to, we just haven’t gotten to that yet,” he said.

After the initial violations, health officials demanded an immediate corrective action plan and that a food safety consultant be brought in to assist Chartwell.

Since then, health officials have documented progress but still found problems with food temperatures and other issues.

“What we are asking them at this point is that they have an independent food consultant to monitor the kitchen and have them do some training for their employees, do some oversight and do an independent inspection of the food operation,” said Izzo.

The Health Department will continue to do followup visits to make sure the food preparation is up to code.

“It all comes down to food handling and employee practices. They weren’t being followed and they need to go through that,” said Izzo.

Wong said the school has been communicating and sharing information with both Chartwells and the Health Department.

“I have confidence that Chartwells will work to comply and satisfy the Health Department’s concerns. There is no option but for them to do that. That is part of our contract with them,” Wong said.

“I wish the launch with Chartwells was more smooth, but I think that when working with a new vendor, it’s expected,” said Wong. “Of course I would have loved a perfect launch, but I think we have to allow, again with glitches associated with start-up. But Chartwells has expressed nothing but positive energy.”

Patrick Spencer, assistant business manager for the Wellesley schools, said in an interview Tuesday that he is confident the food the school is serving is safe. ‘‘I think it was an isolated incident that is being addressed,” he said.

Spencer said Chartwells came with good recommendations during the bidding process for the school food services contract. He said he heard positive feedback from parents and students on the taste of the food over the course of the first week.

In an e-mailed statement today, the company said it ‘‘is honored and excited to serve the students and community of Wellesley Public Schools.’’

Chartwells said the company’s standard practice is to post safety guidelines throughout the kitchen and keep temperature logs current.

‘‘Serv-Safe Certification Training has been scheduled for all staff,’’ the company said. ‘‘Chartwells management is performing a health and sanitation self-inspection today to insure continued compliance with the Department of Health regulations.
Chartwells has followed and will continue to follow direction from the Health Department in all foodservice operations.’’

Derek McLean can be reached at dbmclean1@gmail.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @wellesleyupdate

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