NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The safety of the food served to 1.1 million New York City public school students was on the front burner Tuesday night.
Pizza and chicken have been pulled from school cafeterias because of contamination such as nails found inside chicken fingers. And this was not an isolated incident.
CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer was demanding answers Tuesday.
Students at Stuyvesant High School, 345 Chambers St., were ordering lunch at a nearby deli Tuesday because, they said, the cafeteria food was a little funky.
The students were even more determined to avoid eating in after CBS2’s Kramer showed them pictures of items that until a few weeks ago were cafeteria staples.
“It’s probably a good thing that they pulled pizza off the menu that has like black mold on the underside,” said Stuyvesant student Oliver Frank of Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
“I’m going to continue to eat lunch outside, thank you very much,” said Stuyvesant student James Sowell of Chelsea.
Although it was difficult getting information from the fortress-like Department of Education, a whistleblower provided CBS2 with disturbing pictures. The pizza appeared to have green mold on it, while the chicken tenders had pieces of metal.
Saying, “The safety and well-being of students always comes first, the Department of Education stopped serving the pizza a week ago, and the chicken two weeks before that.
But that is not the whole story.
Sources claim that between Feb. 17 and March 13, there were reportedly four complaints about the pizza from schools across the city. The chicken tenders are even more problematic – a sources said last September that bones were found four times.
A school cafeteria worker choked on a bone, requiring a Heimlich maneuver.
Sources said the chicken tenders were removed from the menu temporarily. The Department of Education admitted that its solution was to have the tenders X-rayed for bones.
Tenders were apparently back on the menu in January, and the pieces of metal started turning up in February.
CBS2’s Kramer has been demanding answers from the Department of Education for about a week, and she said it has not been easy. The department did not have answers for simple questions such as whether parents had been notified about tainted food.
A spokesman said, “I’ll have to get back to you on that one,” Kramer reported.
So Kramer went to Public Advocate Letitia James.
“This is just alarming,” James said. “This mold, and this metal in the chicken nuggets is alarming and disturbing.”
James said she is going to do an independent investigation to demand her own answers.
“We need to suspend these contracts immediately,” James said. “We need to get to the bottom of this.”
The Department of Education said cafeteria workers have been ordered to discard unused pizza and chicken, and that the products in the warehouse will be sent back. The department claimed it is exploring new sources for the products.
James said she wants to hold public hearings, because for many kids, a school lunch is the only meal of the day.