Watch CBS News

Does DOE Have Enough Resources To Inspect Failing Food At Schools?

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- After CBS2 exposed dangerous and decaying food being served at New York City public schools last week, the Department of Education has now launched an investigation.

But do they have enough inspectors to handle the job of looking into the failing food? CBS2 Political Marcia Kramer looked into it Monday.

It was supposed to be a normal day Monday for schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. On the agenda was a school visit with Mayor Bill de Blasio, and questions were not allowed.

But that did not stop CBS2 from asking about the contaminated food turning up in school cafeterias. Pizza and egg and cheese sandwiches were found with what appears to be disgusting mold, and chicken tenders have turned up with metal pieces and bones.

"We are investigating this," Fariña said. "We withdrew it immediately."

But CBS2's Brian Conybeare pointed out that the food apparently was not withdrawn immediately, and asked why.

"I have to tell you that this is part of the investigation, and we will have more updates as soon as we have them," Fariña said.

Meanwhile, CBS2's Kramer went to the Department of Education's fortress-like headquarters to meet with Eric Goldstein, who runs the New York City Public School Food Program. Kramer showed Goldstein the pictures of the gross things that have turned up in the city's school cafeterias since the beginning of the school year.

"It's completely unacceptable," Goldstein said. "I can assure you that we're talking to our vendors. We're holding them 100 percent accountable."

Kramer pointed out that it has sometimes taken a while for contaminated food to make the department's do-not-serve list. In the case of the pizza, sources said there have been 10 complaints from Sept. 9, 2016 to March 3, 2017. It was removed from menus on March 21.

"We want to investigate each incident properly," Goldstein said. "As we work through the issue, we take the appropriate action at the appropriate time."

Part of the problem may be the small number of quality assurance inspectors responsible for inspecting food at the department's 1,400 cafeterias, as well as its four companies that bring the food to the schools.

Kramer: "How many quality assurance inspectors do you have?"

Goldstein: "We have, off the top of my head, I don't know the exact number – but a fair number."

Kramer: "You don't know how many quality inspectors you have for 1,400 cafeterias?"

Goldstein: "We have approximately 10 or so."

Kramer: "Is that enough?"

Goldstein: Depends on how many incidents. If we need to revisit that, we'll revisit that."

Late Monday, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education said there are actually eight quality assurance specialists and two associates. The position requires a high school diploma and four years of experience purchasing or inspecting food.

Kramer asked if the Food and Drug Administration food safety workshops are required. The answer was that they are not, but a spokeswoman said they get other forms of training.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.