In the spring of 2021, a pallet of floor sealer was mistakenly delivered as part of a shelf-stable milk shipment to a warehouse used to store food for the Juneau school district, the district said in its latest. update.
The floor putty was then served to a group of students from the RALLY summer care program held at Sitʼ Eeti Shaanáx̱-Glacier Valley Elementary School as part of breakfast, according to the district. Soon after, students began complaining that the milk they were served tasted bad and burned their throats and mouths, the district said.
The investigation revealed that the outside contractor in charge of preparing the students’ breakfasts was running out of milk and sent staff to the warehouse to get more. Three boxes of sealant were recovered, one of which was taken back to the school, the district said.
In total, according to the district, 12 children and two adults drank the chemical believing it to be milk. After the children complained, the staff “immediately smelled and tasted the ‘milk’ and looked at the labels of the containers”, and quickly discovered that the children had in fact been given “a lightly scented liquid sealant resembling milk “, said the district.
After RALLY staff and workers from outside contractor, NANA Management Services (NMS), realized the error, a RALLY site manager contacted poison control, the district said.
After parents were notified, some students were taken to a nearby hospital or to their doctors, the district said, adding that some children also had headaches and nausea as well as burning in their mouths and throats. .
On Wednesday evening, the district said all 12 students were recovering and some had made full recoveries.
Two of the other boxes of floor sealer recovered from the warehouse were delivered to two other schools, where they remained closed, the district said.
“The Juneau School District School Board was appalled to learn of the food service error that occurred earlier this week,” the statement read. “Our immediate priority is to help the students affected by the incident and to ensure their recovery and continued safety.
“The board is working to understand how this happened and to ensure that we have appropriate safeguards in place to prevent this type of error from happening again.”
Investigations into the incident are still ongoing and involve the school district, the city and borough of Juneau, NMS, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and the police department. of Juneau, according to the press release.
The school district also said it has been in contact with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Department of Labor, and Department of Health and Human Resources. Social services.
“NMS’s highest priority is the safety and well-being of our employees, our customers and the communities we serve,” the NMS contractor said in a statement. “Our security team was immediately dispatched to Juneau on the day of the incident to investigate and assess each contributing factor to determine how this occurred. We are working in cooperation with the Juneau School District, Juneau Police, the City and Borough of Juneau, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and the warehouse contractor.”
The statement added: “To prevent a similar event from happening in the future, we are implementing a corrective action plan that includes additional safety measures and renewed checks and balances. We deeply regret this error. and the plight of families and other members of our community.”
What the school is doing in response
All sealants at the school have been accounted for and stored away from food service areas, the school district said, and the food storage warehouse has been inspected to ensure it does not contain now only food products.
“On Wednesday, the facility and operations were inspected by the Alaska State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Food Safety and Sanitation Office. DEC Food Safety approved the facility for continued operations,” the statement read.
The DEC is also investigating and should act on the recommendations. The district is also preparing to submit “corrective action plans” to the DEC, according to the release.
The school also said there was a delay in notifying parents after the error was discovered, leading them to assess the program’s communication protocols for faster alerts.
“There was a delay in notifying parents that was longer than it should have been. This resulted in families finding out about the situation from other people, which is not best practice,” the district statement said.
The Juneau School District School Board will hold a special public meeting on Friday, which NMS representatives will attend, he said.