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Superintendent: Expired Food In School Kitchens

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CBS Atlanta: Marietta City Schools Superintendent Dr. Emily Lembeck wrote in a letter to CBS Atlanta that her preliminary investigation found expired food in school kitchens.

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In the letter, Lembeck wrote that school board attorney Clem Doyle and Human Resources Director Judith Gann visited two school kitchens Monday and spoke to cafeteria workers. According to Lembeck, Doyle and Gann found evidence of expired food in both kitchens they visited.

"I am displeased and disappointed to learn this information," wrote Lembeck. (You can read the entire letter in the sidebar to the right of this story.)

Lembeck wrote that quality control efforts are not working. She wrote that she has instructed all kitchen managers to remove expired food from their kitchens and never use expired food again.

Lembeck also wrote that she will hire investigators to determine how this situation occurred. She said she plans to take appropriate action when the investigation is complete.

The allegations are being made by Howard Clotfelter, a former food warehouse manager for Marietta City Schools. He's breaking his silence about what he said is a dirty secret he fears could make children sick.

"My personal concern is you're talking about 7,000 kids being served this product," said Clotfelter.

He said management directs employees to serve expired food.

Scrambled eggs, cheese, turkey loaf and yogurt are some of the foods he said have been served well past their expiration dates.

Clotfelter said he's collected empty boxes to prove it. He said when food is delivered from the warehouse to a school, cafeteria workers write the received date in black marker. He claimed these boxes arrived at the schools months after the food inside had expired.

When asked why he's coming forward now, Clotfelter said, "I couldn't get it done from in-house."

Clotfelter claimed he and his wife, a cafeteria worker, have told management but nothing has been done.

Clotfelter gave us e-mails he said show the food service director instructed workers to use old food. One e-mail seems to show director Sandy Laffan instructing a worker to use scrambled eggs that were five months past the expiration date.

"They are fine since they have been frozen. You will have a food loss. You cannot afford higher food costs," according to the e-mail.

"Money before children. I can't take it anymore," said Clotfelter.

Parents we spoke with were not pleased to hear the allegations.

A mother of two Marietta students, Teri Ault said, "It tells me she's more concerned about the cost of food."

A student's grandmother, Debra Suddreth said, "That's a little disturbing to me. I'd prefer they have something that's a little more fresh and you don't have to worry about spoilage."

CBS Atlanta reporter Jeff Chirico asked superintendent Dr. Emily Lembeck, "You'd be comfortable giving students a product that is passed the best used date?" Lembeck replied, "It depends."

Lembeck said her staff follows USDA guidelines, which say some expired food is safe to eat if it had been frozen.

Chirico asked Lembck, "What about 4-year-old turkey loaf?" Lembeck replied, "Four-year old turkey loaf. I wouldn't think that can be stored for four years, but I don't know."

The school system's cafeterias have all passed Cobb County Health Department inspections which check expiration dates.

But Howard, who left the district on disability, said he wouldn't risk his wife's job by coming forward unless he truly feared for students' health.

A school spokesperson said the district will question all cafeteria employees in the district.

Read more stories in the news.

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