NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - A newly published investigation into cafeterias at New York City public schools finds disturbing health code violations and at least five suspected outbreaks of foodborne illnesses since 2016.
The research was conducted by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Student research found 1,150 critical violations that could lead to foodborne illnesses at nearly 700 school cafeterias. Almost half of them showed evidence of rodents in school kitchens and dining rooms.
Examples cited in the report include 600 fresh mice droppings found during a health inspection at PS 398 in East Flatbush, Brooklyn and 1,500 flies found in the kitchen at MS 137 in Ozone Park, Queens.
The research found that at least five suspected outbreaks of foodborne illnesses were suspected to stem from norovirus and affected hundreds of students, including 200 at PS 12 in Woodside, Queens in one outbreak in 2016. The school was shut down for the day after the illnesses, according to the CUNY report. The Department of Education disputes that information and, in an e-mail to Fox 5 News, says the school was not shut down and there was no connection between illnesses and the cafeteria.
City data used in the report found that health inspectors discovered an average of two violations per school cafeteria visit. Some schools had no violations but others with more violations drove up the average.
The number of mouse and roach violations were up in 2017 but fly incidents dropped, according to the Department of Health data.
The report comes after the schools started offering free meals to 1.1 million public school children in the city. The union the represents food workers claimed that staff members are overworked and understaffed because of the increased number of meals served.
One of the schools with the worst health inspection records now allows high school students to leave school to get lunch.