School Lunch - Safe?


Beaver County, PA —At least twenty fourth grade students became ill after eating undercooked chicken served at the New Brighton school cafeteria on Tuesday. Reports indicate that at least thirty servings of undercooked chicken were served at the school on Tuesday, and that the children became ill shortly after eating their lunch.

While the National School Lunch Program was created to provide the opportunity for children across the United States to receive at least one healthy meal every school day, a recent study published by the federal General Accounting Office [1] pointed to the fact that this is not the case, and our children are becoming ill because of the food they are served at school.

“In the last ten years, I’ve represented children who became ill with E. coli and ammonia poisoning after eating contaminated school lunches,” said William Marler, a Seattle attorney who has dedicated his practice to representing victims of foodborne illness. “We know that cooks and cafeteria workers are not intentionally poisoning our children, but food safety must be more of a priority in our school lunchrooms.”

Marler’s firm, Marler Clark, has represented children who became ill in the following school-related outbreaks:

1998 – Finley Elementary School E. coli Outbreak (Washington State)

1998 – Danielsville Elementary School E. coli Outbreak (Georgia)

2001 – Robeson Schools E. coli Outbreak (North Carolina)

2002 – Laraway Elementary School Anhydrous Ammonia Poisoning (Illinois)

2003 – Gold Coast Produce Lettuce E. coli Outbreak (California)

“The bottom line is that children are more vulnerable to foodborne illness than healthy adults, and their parents trust schools to put wholesome, nutritious food in front of them every school day,” Marler continued. “The training, certification, and promoting of key food service personnel may be expensive, but the cost is a lot less than the risk of ill children potential legal action.”

Marler Clark has compiled extensive research on school-related outbreaks.

BACKGROUND: Marler Clark has represented thousands of victims of foodborne illness outbreaks across the country since the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak. The firm represented over 75 individuals who contracted hepatitis A after eating at the Beaver Valley Mall Chi Chi’s restaurant in 2003. Marler Clark represents over 90 individuals who suffered from Salmonella infections after eating at Sheetz convenience stores in 2004. William Marler, Bruce Clark, and Denis Stearns spend several days a month speaking to health departments, environmental health associations, and corporations about various issues surrounding foodborne illness outbreaks.

[1] School Meal Programs: Few Instances of Foodborne Outbreaks Reported, but Opportunities Exist to Enhance Outbreak Data and Food Safety Practices.