A school food safety bill in Wisconsin would treat lunch rooms like restaurants in that someone on staff would be required to obtain a food protection certificate before the facility could serve students. Assembly Bill (AB) 37 is awaiting action in the Wisconsin Senate after clearing the Assembly on a voice vote March 17. schoollunchtray_406x250Rep. Warren Petryk (R-Eleva), sponsor of AB 37, said that 75 percent of Wisconsin school lunch programs associated with the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) have voluntarily obtained food protection certificates. “Nearly 720,000 meals are served to our students in Wisconsin on a daily basis which equates to approximately 125 million meals each school year,” Petryk said. “This is a staggering number of meals being served, making the potential for foodborne illness a very real possibility. This legislation will help to ensure that our school lunches are safe and pose minimal health risks to students.” The bill would simply extend the requirement for restaurants to any school lunch program associated with the NSLP, meaning it would apply to about 97 percent of all public schools and about 38 percent of private schools. Food protection certificates are good for five years and are obtained through the Department of Health Services for testing fee of $10. A 10-year testing course is available through the Department of Public Instruction for $100. Petryk says its an affordable program to make school meals safe and free of foodborne illness. The school food safety bill began moving quickly after a March 4 public hearing that drew no opposition to the new requirement. One amendment to the original bill was successfully offered by Petryk. It simply makes the “operator or manager” of the lunchroom responsible for obtaining the certificate.