Knox County Schools officials ease concerns about food safety following Hawkins County incident

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The serving of six-year-old frozen meat to students in Hawkins County last week left questions in some parents’ minds about what precautions go into serving food in other school systems, like Knox County Schools.

The pork roast, some dating back to 2009, was served in 17 of Hawkins County’s 18 schools. There are no reports of any students getting sick, but a special meeting was held Thursday night aimed at making sure it doesn’t happen again.

Knox County Schools Director of Nutrition Wanda McCown says each food item in all cafeterias in the county is dated twice to avoid any confusion.

Previous story: Hawkins County Schools launch new procedures after serving years-old meat to students

“Normally in Knox County, we try to use the product by the expiration date or before,” said McCown. “We take the acceptability of the products and the quality of products and the wholesome safety of all food products very seriously in Knox County.”

Knox County Schools Director of Nutrition Wanda McCown says each food item in all cafeterias in the county is dated twice to avoid any confusion.
Knox County Schools Director of Nutrition Wanda McCown says each food item in all cafeterias in the county is dated twice to avoid any confusion.

McCown walked WATE 6 On Your Side through West Valley Middle School’s cafeteria freezer and pointed out how inventory is done in the district.

“This is where the product is brought into the freezer. Here we have the distributors date then the manager of the cafeteria dates the product and puts it in the cooler,” said McCown. “We do an inventory every month on the last day of each month of every product that we have.”

Previous story: ‘There’s no excuse for this,’ Hawkins County BOE discuss years-old meat served to students

Knox County Schools Director of Nutrition Wanda McCown
Knox County Schools Director of Nutrition Wanda McCown

Dr. Martha Buchanan with the Knox County Health Department says keeping food frozen for a long period of time might be an issue with its quality, but isn’t an issue with safety.

“Food that’s frozen isn’t known to grow the things that make people sick, the bacteria or the toxins. It’s after you take it out and how you handle it when you thaw it out. That’s where the risk begins,” said Buchanan.

So what would happen if something slipped through the cracks and food dated a few years back was found in a freezer or stock room in Knox County?

Dr. Martha Buchanan with the Knox County Health Department
Dr. Martha Buchanan with the Knox County Health Department

“I would just say we would not use it, because I think it’s just the perception that if you say you’re going to use something that is used before this date or best by this date, then that’s what should be happening,” said McCown.

The central office has also access to every school’s inventory list to avoid something getting overlooked at the schools.

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