Laporte among three area schools that received potentially tainted peanut products
Three schools in the region were shipped possibly tainted peanut products linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak as part of the federal school meal program, U.S Department of Agriculture officials announced Friday.
Included on the list of schools receiving the products are Cass Lake-Bena, Laporte and Clearbrook-Gonvick.
Schools, daycare centers and group homes in California, Idaho and Minnesota received roasted peanuts and peanut butter, which are now part of a rapidly expanding recall list from the Blakely, Ga.,-based Peanut Corp. of America, said Jack Currie, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service. The USDA said previously that school meal programs were not affected by the large-scale recall, but Peanut Corp. has expanded its recall to all peanut products made at the plant since Jan. 1, 2007.
"The USDA is working with the small number of affected parties to identify recalled product and remove it from distribution," reads a statement posted on the USDA's Web site on Friday. "All USDA nutrition assistance program operators are being asked to check for any product that might have been purchased commercially."
Stores have already pulled more than 430 kinds of cakes, cookies and other food from shelves in what the Food and Drug Administration is calling one of the largest product recalls in memory. The outbreak has sickened more than 500 people in the United States, with as many as eight deaths linked to the outbreak.
On Friday, the government opened a criminal investigation into the Georgia peanut-processing plant for shipping allegedly tainted products to dozens of other food companies.
The USDA believes most of the recalled food has been consumed at the schools, daycare centers and other facilities. It referred inquiries about which schools were involved to the states.
In California, at least 175 Southern California school districts and agencies received recalled peanut products from the USDA's school lunch commodity food distribution program, according to the state Department of Education. The Minnesota Department of Education says one truckload of roasted peanuts in 10-pound cans from the company was distributed to about 190 schools or districts in January of 2007.
Idaho officials were unsure late Friday how many schools were affected, state education department spokesman Melissa McGrath said.
None of the states reported illnesses as a result of students eating the recalled peanut products.
School officials across the country are checking cafeterias, vending machines and stores to be sure all recalled products are thrown away, said Erik Peterson with the School Nutrition Association. That includes warning parents that cookie dough sold by school groups as fundraisers could be tainted, he said.
"Everyone is checking," he said. "Some out of an abundance of caution are not serving peanut-related products at all."