ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. – Meat dating to the year of President Obama’s first inauguration was served to students in some Hawkins County, Tennessee schools last week.
Hawkins County Commissioner Michael Herrell was alerted after a cafeteria worker sent him a photo of the pork roast they used for school meals was from 2009.
The 6-year-old meat had been frozen and then was thawed for meal preparation, according to WCYB.
Herrell said the photo was taken at Joseph Rogers Primary School where the staff decided not to serve the meat. However, it was served at other schools.
Cherokee Comprehensive High School, for example, served the pork after a debate.
According to Herrell, the woman at Cherokee High who was concerned about it said the meat smelled so bad they made gravy to put over it to give it a better smell and taste, WBIR reported.
Director of Schools Steve Starnes learned about the issue on April 23rd and said that the meat passed their tests.
Starnes said, “There were some meats with dates of 2009, 10, 11 in the freezer. Our child nutrition supervisor had the cafeteria managers look at the meat, do the tests, and see if it was OK. The decision was made to serve it.”
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“If you see on the USDA website, it’s safe indefinitely, just like anything you check it,” according to Starnes.
However, WCYB reports that, according to USDA guidelines, uncooked meat should be frozen only up to 12 months.
While so far there are no reported illnesses tied to the meat, the Board of Education Chair says they’re not sure how many of the more than 7,000 students in the district actually ate the outdated pork.
On Friday, the school board put into effect USDA Guidelines for handling food to be used for school lunches.
“As material comes in we will be serving it in that time period and we will have a strict adherence to all USDA guidelines, meaning 12 months on meat,” Starnes said.
The schools will also have cafeteria workers go through the inventory and clean out expired stock. They are unsure at this point how much food that will affect.
“We want parents to feel safe that when they are sending their children to school, we are providing them with a quality food service program,” according to Starnes.
But Commissioner Herrell said, “it should be more action than just stickers to date meat when it comes in and out.”
Herrell also told WBIR that someone should be held responsible.
“These high-schoolers, they understand if they see something they are not going to like, they don’t eat it. But when you get to these kindergartners, first and second-graders, do they really know if the meat is bad or not?” Herrell said.
An open meeting for parents to learn about the new guidelines is scheduled to take place Thursday night at 6:00 p.m. at the Charles A. Fuller Boardroom in Rogersville.