Health, School Officials Debate Safety of Homemade Foods in Schools

When your children arrive at school they could end up consuming homemade treats sent in by other parents. Bay County Health Director Dr. Jason Newsom says it's not safe.

"The question becomes when you send your kid to school do you trust every parent in the classroom exercise the same diligence that you exercise in your kitchen?" said Newsom.

Schools are defined by Florida statute as "food service establishments." Under Florida Department of Health rules "food prepared in a private home shall not be used, sold, or offered to the public by a food service establishment."

Just recently those rules changed because school districts weren't following them anyway. Newsom wrote a letter to state officials addressing the problem here in Bay County, and was told the policy is being removed because of that universal lack of enforcement.

"Since there's a general consensus that most people think this rule is not important the Department of Health is going to rewrite the rule, take out that provision and in the meantime stop enforcing that rule," said Newsom.

While Dr. Newsom can't recall any reports of children getting sick from homemade treats, he says the purpose of public health is to be preventative.

Bay district officials say they understand the concerns.

"I agree to a certain extent that certain foods especially high protein foods, potentially hazardous foods if they haven't been refrigerated properly and haven't been cooked to the appropriate temperature and if some parents are not aware of the proper cooking techniques there could be a reason for concern," said Kim Blackwell, Bay District Food Services Director.

But they don't believe it's enough to eliminate the foods from schools.

"It's a tradition, a long standing tradition to have parties in schools and the teachers kind of monitor what the students take in so I don't have a problem with it," said Blackwell.

The old state policy only covered homemade treats. Parents were still allowed to send supermarket-prepared foods to school, because their preparations are monitored.

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