Jon K. Rust

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications.

When must milk be discarded?

If you have a question, e-mail factorfiction@semissourian.com or call Speak Out (334-5111) and identify your call as a question for "Fact or fiction?"

Q: Eating lunch at Scott City Elementary School, I noticed that after lunch unopened milk was being thrown away. It was explained that it was some sort of OPAA! guideline that even food that hadn't been opened had to be thrown away. Is that correct? -- Herline Bowers, Scott City

A: "That's correct. There are federal guidelines that once you serve food, it can't be reused, even if unopened," said Scott City superintendent Diane Bradshaw-Ulmer. "OPAA! is the name of the contracted food service company that we use, however. So it's not their guidelines. They're simply following the federal rules."

"There are a couple reasons for these guidelines," explained Emily Price, a dietitian with the St. Louis District Dairy Council. "One, schools have to track the identification numbers of every milk they sell so that they are properly reimbursed. But the main reason is the sanitation factor. Once milk goes out to the public, the providers don't have control. For example, the carton might get damaged. Or it might stand in lower temperatures, where bacteria growth is accelerated. The federal guidelines keep people from getting sick off a product, whether milk or other food."

Regarding the federal program, Price explained that schools get reimbursed for offering meals fulfilling specific nutrient requirements. In Missouri, milk is one of the nutritional mandates. However, milk does not have to be placed on a tray and "served" to each student. If properly handled, it may simply be "offered." If a student does not take the milk, it still fulfills the mandate and may be offered again as long as it is fresh.

"It's up to the school district whether there is an offer versus a serve," Price said.

Q: I always have wondered if the university police officers have the same powers as the city police officers. Can a university police officer pull you over for speeding just as the city officer can? -- Greg Dowdy, Cape Girardeau

A: "Yes, university police officers have the same authority as city police officers and can stop a vehicle for speeding," said Ann Hayes, news bureau director for Southeast Missouri State University. "All university police officers are commissioned by the city of Cape Girardeau and the state of Missouri. A select group of university police officers who serve on the Cape Girardeau County Major Case Squad are also commissioned by the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department."

Q: Is it true that when teachers get more money because of having put in more years and/or accumulating more hours of credit, this is never referred to as a raise? Thus, in the language of educatorese, teachers can get a raise without getting a raise?

A: "School districts universally utilize salary schedules for the purposes of determining salaries," said Mark Bowles, Cape Girardeau School District superintendent. "The schedule defines the yearly pay raise that each staff member receives. Essentially, the evaluation process determines re-employment, and the salary schedule determines compensation.

"Having predetermined raises published in a salary schedule runs the risk that they are perceived by employees as entitlements instead of raises, but educators understand that any increase in pay is a raise," Bowles said.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian. E-mail him at jrust@semissourian.com.