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Waipahu school cited in Sept. for food service health violation

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  • Emergency crews responded to Waipahu Elementary School lon Dec. 10

The elementary school cafeteria that improperly prepared spaghetti and caused a recent food-poisoning outbreak was cited in September for a similar violation by the state Health Department.

Health inspectors cited Waipahu Elementary on Sept. 18 for failing to properly reheat food, according to Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo. The violation also had to do with preparing pasta noodles.

The inspection was part of a routine visit that health officials conduct once a semester.

Okubo said the school’s cafeteria staff was told how to correct the situation and instructed to follow proper time and temperature controls.

Less than three months later, more than 30 children and two adults fell ill after eating lunches prepared in the school’s cafeteria. Some 25 students were taken to area hospitals after experiencing dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and feeling clammy and sweaty.

Laboratory test results and a health inspection report concluded that a portion of spaghetti served in the school cafeteria Dec. 10 contained bacteria that resulted from improper food preparation.

An inspection conducted by the Health Department found food prepared the previous day had not been properly re-heated in the morning and may not have been properly cooled the day before, creating an environment for bacteria growth.

News of a prior violation came as a surprise to leadership of the Department of Education Tuesday, according to spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz.

She said cafeterias are overseen by principals and inspection reports are handled at the school level.

"Of course, the department is concerned about this and we’re making sure the staff is retrained," she said. "One thing the department doesn’t have is a clear line of oversight for school cafeterias. 

We’ve talked with the school’s principal and he is taking corrective action."

Principal Gary Chun could not immediately be reached for comment this evening.

During the recent health investigation, meals were brought in to Wai-pahu Elementary from a neighboring school. Deliveries are expected to continue this week until the school’s cafeteria crew completes health safety training.

Okubo said the Health Department conducted a food-safety training session at the school Monday.

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