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School Food Safety Act signed by Pa. governor

December 11, 2002

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania Gov. Mark S. Schweiker signed a bill Monday introduced by state Rep. Jeff Coy, D-Franklin, that will require food safety inspections of school cafeterias and training of cafeteria workers.

Coy's bill, the School Food Safety Act, amends the Public Eating and Drinking Place Law to require the Department of Agriculture to annually inspect school cafeterias as part of the state's food safety inspection program in the same manner it does restaurants and public cafeterias, Coy said in a news release.

The bill passed unanimously in the Senate on Nov. 27 and the House of Representatives on Oct. 7. It takes effect in 60 days.

"By closing this loophole, we're ensuring that children are receiving safe and healthy meals prepared in a sanitary environment using equipment that is kept clean at all times," Coy said in the news release.

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"The goal is to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses through proper food handling and preparation. These inspections will ensure that all school cafeterias are meeting uniform standards," Coy said.

Coy's 1997 bill prompted an agreement between the Health and Agriculture departments in which agriculture employees would inspect school cafeterias, according to the news release. That agreement has expired, and the state has been left to conduct inspections without authority or responsibility backed up by statute.

The legislation would ensure that school cafeteria inspections continue. Without them, Coy said schoolchildren could be potentially exposed to foodborne illnesses and unsanitary conditions. Inspectors employ the same food safety standards for school cafeterias as they use for restaurants.

Coy said the inspections have been working. Of the 1,852 school cafeterias inspected last year, 1,818 had some type of notable problem that was corrected through state intervention, the release said.

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