By Ralph Echtinaw
Moldy breakfast sandwiches served at Carrie Knause Elementary Tuesday gave food poisoning to at least one student.
The male kindergartner got sick that evening, vomiting six times by 2 a.m. Wednesday. His parents spent $90 on a doctor’s visit to hear that food poisoning was the cause and the episode was likely over with no treatment or drugs recommended.
The boy’s father told the Sentinel that no one from the school called, texted, or emailed to report that his son had consumed a whole sandwich before mold was discovered and the food was taken away from students. He learned what happened the next day (Wednesday) after he told the school about his son’s illness. And only then did the district act to notify the rest of the Carrie Knause parents.
The sandwiches came pre-made from Tasty Brands. “Since our incident, we were notified of two other districts that had the same exact problem,” said Superintendent Jennifer McKittrick. On Wednesday the districts food service contractor, Compass-USA, “instructed all districts with who they partner with to immediately pull this product, and they opened a quality assurance investigation,” she added.
“We are deeply sorry this occurred and know that this does not meet our standards,” said Director of Dining Services Charles Clevenger. “While we serve more than 246,263 meals in our district each school year and during the summer, having this occur in one meal is one too many. We are working to investigate this incident to ensure this does not happen again.”
The frozen but moldy sandwiches were delivered Nov. 23 and kept frozen until the morning of Nov. 29, McKittrick said. “At that time the sandwiches were brought up to temperature and served. This particular packaging had a blue design across it which prevented anyone from being able to identify the mold until it had been opened. We inspect all of our food items, whether it be by temperature checks, visual inspections, or expiration dates.”
“Once students began opening the pre-packaged croissant sandwich it was brought to the attention of the food service department that the sandwiches had mold on them,” McKittrick continued. “We immediately collected the sandwiches and provided an alternate breakfast option.”
However, it was 12:30 p.m. Wednesday before families were notified.
That notification took the form of an emailed letter signed by McKittrick and Carrie Knause Principal Amy King. They urged parents to “watch for possibly symptoms of food borne illness” in their kids.
“We sincerely apologize for serving this product, and we have immediately discontinued purchasing the product,” they wrote. “Moving forward we will always inspect pre-packaged meals prior to serving them to our students. Your child’s and our students’ health and safety are always our number one priority.”
Clevenger said he and his staff are “continuing to carefully evaluate what occurred and put plans in place to ensure a situation like this does not happen again. This includes discontinuing purchasing this product and conducting additional training with our own staff to further ensure our high standards are maintained. Our community looks to us for great-tasting, quality food, and we are all dedicated to ensuring we meet and exceed those expectations every day.”
School Board President Carrie Salladay wrote the following on behalf of the whole board in response to the Sentinel’s request for comment.
“We are truly sorry for any negative impact our students may have experienced from this situation. As a result of this incident, our food service staff will work diligently to thoroughly examine all future pre-packaged food items for quality before being served to our students.”
Parents may be compensated for medical expenses related to this incident if they fill out a form in the district’s central office (adjacent to the high school) and submit medical bills for reimbursement, McKittrick said.