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Expired foods mistakenly made its way to public school cafeterias last week, declared the Massachusetts State Department of Education. Roughly a dozen of schools reported expired food shipments from warehouses of at least six weeks past the expiration date.
Expired food first showed up last month in Boston. Since then the problem has been targeted state-wide.
City councilor of Boston John Connelly said that many of the students from Boston are given discounted or free food at school. Now that expired food has been surfacing in these schools, Connolly fears that the students may be receiving food of no or low nutritional value.
Due to these events, school board members and officials have asked the Agriculture Department to place a more standardized system of determining expiration dates.
The current system consists of randomization of coding practices to date the food. Some food packages are labeled with an expiration date, some with a packaged-on stamp, and others with no dates.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines complicate the situation, saying that the food products may be fine to eat even after the date listed.
The food is supplied by USDA and is stored by four different warehouse facilities.
According to JC Considine, spokesperson of Elementary and Secondary Education of Massachusetts, the expired food has been coming from one of the warehouses that deliver food to the northeastern part of the state.
All of the warehouses are currently under review to ensure there will be no more expired food delivered.
In Boston last month, officials reported 280 cases of food with questionable dates in 40 of 46 full service kitchens that serve 135 public schools. Out of date products included cheese, chickpeas, and beef patties. Some of the dates were as old as 2009.
Recently, officials identified over 3,000 cases of expired food at the storage facility.
”We uncovered some real fiscal waste because of inventory mismanagement that was resulting in the expired food making its way into schools,” Connelly said.
This news has prompted an immediate upgrade to the inventory management and changed long-term menu planning.
Boston school officials have reassured parents and students the food being served is safe, but some schools have reported a decrease in breakfast and lunch participation since the situation came to light.