Student discovers nail in school pizza


Students wait in line to receive school food. As a result of the discovery of the nail, the Ventura County Health Department has launched an investigation. (Staff photographer/Talon).

Junior  and content editor Nicholas Branigan hoped to enjoy a slice of barbecue chicken pizza from the cafeteria on April 1 when he noticed a hard object baked into the pizza — a black, 3/4-inch nail.

“I was shocked. I was in a state of disbelief,” Branigan said. “How could a nail have possibly found its way into my pizza?”

Los Robles Hospital gastroenterology nurse Chongyan Liang explained what would happen if one ingested a nail. According to Liang, an ingested nail would likely cut the digestive tract, leading to internal bleeding.

The Ventura County Health Department currently possesses the nail and is conducting an independent investigation.

Oak Park Director of Nutrition Carol Ly assured that despite this “freak accident,” the OPHS cafeteria is safe. According to Ly, the cafeteria continually passes bi-annual inspections. Additionally, each cafeteria staff member is “trained in current food safety practices and possesses an up-to-date Food Safety Manager’s Certificate or Food Handler’s Certificate accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).”

The cafeteria receives its ingredients — meats and produce included — from its supplier, Gold Star Foods, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. All food served, excluding the pizza and Pick Up Stix, is freshly cooked in the cafeteria. Tony’s Pizza and Pasta, a local restaurant, delivers pizza to the school every day.

Cafeteria manager manages the cafeteria processes, which begins at 9 a.m. and finishes just before lunch. During this time, cafeteria staff and students perform rigorous examinations of all produce and ingredients — none of which are expired — and regularly change gloves and wash hands. Produce is also thoroughly rinsed. Cell phones are banned from the kitchens in order to prevent any contamination.

“[The cafeteria] will only sell unsold food the next day if it can be safely stored,” Schmidt said.

All pizzas are visually scanned to determine if they are safe to be sold. Once they pass this inspection, they are packaged.

According to Ly, because of the cafeteria’s stringent procedures, the nail could not have originated from the cafeteria but from Tony’s.
However, Tony’s denied any responsibility for the nail found in the pizza. The manager of Tony’s stated that the establishment “found nowhere where [the nail] could have gotten into the pizza.”

While the OPHS cafeteria has passed its bi-annual inspections, routine Ventura County Environmental Health inspections of Tony’s Pizza and Pasta revealed several violations. In December 2014, an inspection found broken equipment, food kept in unsanitary conditions and a lack of food handler cards for many Tony’s employees.

Despite the cafeteria’s safety procedures, Branigan refuses to consume pizza from Tony’s.

“What are the odds that me, an editor, would find a nail in my pizza at a Journalism Club meeting on April Fool’s Day?”

Editor’s note: The Talon has found no evidence of this accident being a prank of any kind.

In order to provide healthier foods and promote conservation, the cafeteria is undergoing several initiatives.

First, the cafeteria is seeking to expand use of campus-grown foods and move toward all-organic produce as well as hormone and antibiotic-free meat, while excluding beef products all together.

While the removal of beef was arguably the most controversial move, Schmidt defended it because beef is generally unhealthier than chicken and “is often recalled.”

“Besides, the students seem to be willing to eat chicken anyway,” Schmidt said.

The cafeteria responds immediately to all food recalls and if a certain ingredient — like beef — is recalled frequently, it may be pulled from the cafeteria.

Finally, to promote a greener lifestyle, the cafeteria is embarking on its California Thursdays Barbecue program, which started on April 23. Its goal is to only serve food grown and raised in California.

Students reacted positively to the program.

“It’s definitely healthier than what [the cafeteria] usually serve[s],” junior Vincent Tran said.

Lastly, the cafeteria uses recyclable and biodegradable containers and composts left-over produce.

Carol Ly remarks, “It is really important for the student body and faculty to know that our staff members put so much heart into innovating and cooking up a variety of options for everyone to enjoy. I know that there are many misrepresentations of cafeteria food popularized by television that are simply untrue, especially at Oak Park and particularly at this point in time. Many students have no idea that much of the food that comes out of the cafeteria is cooked from scratch using some of the best ingredients we can find.”