Hartford high school cafeterias ranked last in a study of food safety inspections for schools in 20 jurisdictions in the country, according to a report released Tuesday by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The center is a not-for-profit consumer-advocacy organization with offices in Washington. Its report, "Making the Grade," was based on an analysis of food inspection reports from high schools, rating them in four categories: inspection frequency, critical violations that could put students' health at risk, ease of access to information, and the food code used to set standard operating procedures.
The Farmington Valley Health District, which was also included in the center's report, ranked seventh out of the 20 areas. Other areas listed in the report included Fort Worth, Texas (the top finisher); Virginia (ranked eighth); Chicago (ranked 12th); and Rhode Island (ranked 18th).
Hartford school cafeterias recorded the highest number of critical violations of any area evaluated, with an average of 2.7 per school, according to the report. Among the problems cited were dirty equipment and utensils, inadequate hand-washing facilities and poor worker hygiene, according to the center.
In addition, the cafeterias in Hartford were inspected an average of only once per year, below a federal requirement for twice a year, according to the report. The report also cited Hartford for providing poor access to inspection reports - they are not available on any website - and a weak food code. Hartford schools follow the Connecticut food code, according to the report.
The Farmington Valley Health District, which includes Avon, Barkhamsted, Canton, Colebrook, East Granby, Farmington, Granby, Hartland, New Hartford and Simsbury, earned a perfect rating for inspection frequency, with an average of two inspections per year. Schools had an average of 0.8 critical violations per year; the most frequently cited was improper hot or cold holding temperatures.
The health district received the same food code score as Hartford, though it uses a different code to govern standard operating procedures.