Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

March 13, 2014

School employees retrained after lunchroom incident

PRINCETON — School cooks were undergoing retraining Wednesday after undercooked chicken was served earlier this week at a local middle school.

A photograph showing a piece of undercooked chicken on a Princeton Middle School student’s lunch tray was widely shared Monday evening after 20 students were served the chicken. Approximately 350 students had been served quality meals before the last 20 received the chicken, according to Pamela Reid, director of child nutrition for Mercer County Schools.

The incident was under investigation and the school’s cooks were undergoing retraining, Reid said Tuesday. Reid was not available for additional comment Wednesday.

By Wednesday, a photograph of an undercooked piece of chicken served at Princeton Senior High School had been posted on the Bluefield Daily Telegraph’s Facebook page.

Greg Prudich, president of the Mercer County Board of Education, said that to his knowledge, there had not been an instance where a student ate the food prepared at local schools and became sick.

“We don’t want anybody to get sick, and we want the food to be prepared properly and safely,” Prudich said.

Prudich added that he rarely viewed Facebook. People with concerns about a school’s food should contact that school’s administrator, he said.

“It would help if people would inform us when things don’t go well,” Prudich said. “I don’t see that stuff (Facebook.). Unless somebody tells me or (Superintendent Deborah Akers) or go to the administrator, we can’t know about it.”

Superintendent Deborah Akers also said she had not received any complaints about undercooked food at any other schools.

To help ensure that food is cooked properly, Reid sends recipes to school cooks that describe how each food must be handled, at what temperature it must be cooked and for how long, Akers said. These procedures were available to the cooks at Princeton Middle School.

“The procedures were in place,” Akers said. “They were not followed, and we are doing retraining to impress upon our employees that they absolutely have to be followed.”

The superintendent also urged parents to inform their schools if there are any problems with the food.

“They need to report it to the administrator first. That administrator will bring in Ms. Reid with the cooks to address the issue,” Akers said.

Sanitarian Andrew Whittaker of the Mercer County Health Department said Wednesday that to the best of his knowledge, his department had not received any complaints about undercooked food at other schools.

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