PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Health Department inspects school cafeterias just like they inspect restaurants for health violations.

While many school cafeterias are safe and sanitary, KDKA’s Paul Martino found others with critical health code violations and a Health Department that’s far more lenient with your kids’ cafeteria than it is with your local restaurant.

The kids at North Allegheny Intermediate School don’t have to worry about their food.

Their cafeteria has won awards for safety and cleanliness. Bill Moore is the man in charge.

“Every one of our employees that we hire are all serve-safe certified. They go through a class,” Moore said.

You’d expect your child’s school cafeteria to be safe and sanitary and follow all of the Health Department’s rules and regulations. This one does, but what KDKA found at some other cafeterias, may be hard to swallow.

Dozens of inspection reports for the past two years on school cafeterias all over Allegheny County were reviewed.

At Faison Intermediate School in Homewood inspectors found expired cases of carrots and celery. They also found frozen food sitting around defrosted.

At nearby Faison Arts Academy, mice feasted on fruit pies that were still in the boxes. Inspectors found more rodents at Perry Traditional Academy.

More schools were cited for keeping food at unsafe hot and cold temperatures and another three were cited for inadequate sanitation.

However, the biggest problem KDKA found was 15 cafeterias being cited for not having a certified manager – someone trained in food safety – on site.

“The certified manager hopefully knows the principals of safe food handling and preparation so that they do it in a way that’s safe,” Dr. Bruce Dixon with the Allegheny County Health Department said.

KDKA found several schools got away with not having a certified manager time and time again. Faison Intermediate was cited four times in one year, but no action was taken.

Perhaps the biggest single offender KDKA found were the KinderCare private preschools.

Critical violations were found in at least four of their Pittsburgh-area locations. The KinderCare in Plum had a mouse problem and didn’t even have a health permit to be open in April of 2009. A month later, the mice were gone, but they still didn’t have a permit.

Even so, the Health Department allowed them to continue serving food to preschoolers.

Back at North Allegheny, where certified workers take care to maintain safe temperatures and sanitary conditions, they can’t believe what other cafeterias are getting away with.

It’s important to note that cafeterias are not inspected by Allegheny County’s Food Safety Division. They’re inspected by Allegheny County’s Housing & Community Environment department because they already inspect for safety in schools. However, it appears their enforcement is much more lenient. There is no record of any cafeteria ever being fined or shutdown like restaurants.

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