Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

March 12, 2014

Undercooked chicken served to middle school students

PRINCETON — School officials sought answers Tuesday after there were reports of local middle school students being served undercooked chicken for lunch.

The incident went viral Monday evening on local social media after a photograph of what looked like raw chicken on a Princeton Middle School student’s lunch tray was posted. Principal Danny Buckner said the servings were “a mistake.”

“We had a problem yesterday at lunch; a pan of chicken was pulled before it was cooked. Only about 20 children were served the chicken and it was only about five minutes before school cooks noticed and made the children throw away the chicken and gave them another option,” Buckner told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph Tuesday morning.

The school had not had any reports of anyone being sick, Buckner added.

Pamela Reid, director of child nutrition for Mercer County Schools, went to Princeton Middle School on Tuesday to review the kitchen’s procedures.

“I went to make sure the procedures for cooking foods were properly in place and that proper procedures are being followed by every cook,” Reid said. The correct procedures were followed Tuesday, but the incident is still being reviewed.

“We had a major error yesterday” she said. “We are still investigating, because there are five people involved, to find out exactly what went wrong.”

Reid stated that she had not seen problems with undercooked food before Monday’s incident.

“I’ve been here two years,” she said. “There have been no reports of raw food being served.”

The chicken served Monday had been in the oven, so it was undercooked, Reid said.

“It was found out immediately and the trays were discarded, and they were given a different meal. It was a grilled cheese sandwich with vegetables and a salad bar, fresh fruit and milk,” she stated. “The first 350 (students) received quality meals. The last 20 in line received the undercooked chicken. We’re still trying to find out exactly when happened. There was a failure, and we need to find out what happened.”

Reid said all of the school’s cooks would have retraining Wednesday through the Mercer County Health Department and the Mercer County Office of Child Nutrition.

“We are not aware if anybody actually ate the chicken. It was reported, and discarded, and we have had no reports of anyone being sick,” she stated. “Food safety is the number one priority, and that’s why we are just devastated by this lapse in food safety and procedures.”

Administrator Susan Kadar of the Mercer County Health Department said her agency had not received complaints of students getting sick after eating the chicken. A health department sanitarian also went to Princeton Middle to review cooking procedures.

Sanitarian Andrew Whittaker said he learned about the chicken when the health department received a phone caller. He did not know whether the caller was a parent.

“We’re just taking preventative measures to make sure it does not happen again,” he said.

There is a plan for checking the temperature of chicken after it’s taken from an oven. Once it is done, it must be checked to make sure its internal temperature reached 165 degrees for at least 15 seconds, he said. The incident could have been caused by human error during the “lunch rush.”

“They had some chicken that was overcooked and burned, and chose not to serve that,” Whittaker said. “In trying to fix that error, they cooked some more chicken and it wasn’t cooked enough.”

Reporter Anne Elgin contributed to this story

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