July 14, 2003 – Sen. Ronald Russell, in a letter to Education Commissioner Noreen Michael, has asked for a full accounting of events leading to environmental health officials' decision to destroy $20,000 worth of ground beef intended for the department's summer food service program.
The meat was destroyed as a precautionary measure after officials of the Health Department's Environmental Health Division found that a refrigeration unit had apparently malfunctioned.
Russell, who wrote to Michael on Friday, said that he has been told by Environmental Health personnel that "the problems with the freezer have been ongoing."
And, he said, evidence has now come to light that the Environmental Health Division had been warning the Education Department since May 1999 of food safety violations.
Russell, in his capacity as chair of the Senate Education and Youth Committee, asked Michael to provide him:
– Environmental Health correspondence, reports, citations and warnings regarding Education Department food storage.
– Correspondence relating to the repair, replacement or upgrading of Education food storage units.
– Alternate plans for food storage in the event of a breakdown of facilities.
– The department's alternative plan now for providing summer food services to the children enrolled in the program.
"I am concerned as to how this will impact the summer food program and the over 6,000 students as well as their parents who depend on this program to provide nutrition," Russell wrote Michael. "This program, which allows for our children to receive needed supplements to enhance their diet, is in danger of falling short of its mandate. The consequences of this unfortunate situation will be borne by those who can least afford it, our children."
Messages left for Michael seeking comment on Monday afternoon were not returned.
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