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Shocked By School Food Poisoning

It truly was shocking news from the state Department of Health to learn that some 30 students from Waipahu Elementary had been taken to an area hospital after experiencing dizziness, vomiting and feeling clammy and sweaty.

After careful investigation by state health officials, it was determined that the youngsters and two adults had consumed cafeteria spaghetti that may not have been properly prepared.

I was shocked! First, by the news that the students at an elementary school in Waipahu had been fed spaghetti. The idea of spaghetti in cafeterias is interesting. I can think of at least five incidents of fights breaking out in University of Hawaii cafeterias while I was there. I always was interested in how a fight breaks out at such a high-grade level over spaghetti. More often than not, it was because the spaghetti was not hot enough, and a spaghetti fight would start by one side of the cafeteria throwing cold spaghetti at the proponents of properly heated spaghetti on the other side of the table.

Second, it was spaghetti that had been prepared the day before and had not been properly reheated.

I’m not a chef or anything, but since when have there been government regulations on how to “reheat” day-old spaghetti?

Well, as it turns out, there are, and the staff of the cafeteria has been trained on how to “reheat” spaghetti.

The third surprise was that the school had a prior food-safety violation involving the “reheating” of dayold food.

Finally, the students were being fed “reheated” leftovers and, if my memory serves me correctly, most local school cafeteria spaghetti is baked in ovens the day it is served. It’s interesting to ponder if the principals eat the same leftovers the students eat. I’m pretty sure they do, but it appears that a school cafeteria is sort of a no-man’s land when it comes to supervision.

It also seemed that most people don’t really care about the temperature of their spaghetti, as long it tastes OK. I’m not sure how that will change now that the parents found out their children were being served bacteria-infected leftover food.