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Students May Have Eaten Contaminated Turkey

Oct 19, 2002 | Carlisle Sentinel Hundreds of Cumberland Valley High School students could have eaten deli turkey contaminated with the bacteria listeria monocytogenes.

On Wednesday, the school served Pilgrim's Pride deli turkey at its deli and salad bars during all four lunch periods, unaware that it was part of a national recall of meat distributed by Wampler Foods, a division of Pilgrim's Pride.

CV Food Service Director Susan Meadows says although 2,400 students eat in the high school cafeteria during any given day, only about 200 eat food from the deli and salad bars.

Superintendent Anthony Colistra called a press conference Friday after a state Department of Agriculture official showed up at the school late Thursday afternoon to hand-deliver information about the recall.

Flanked by officials from the Department of Agriculture and the school physician, Colistra said the lunchmeat was immediately removed from the cafeteria and he knows of no students who got sick from eating the turkey.

On Friday, he mailed letters to the parents of all high school students, informing them that 52 pounds of lunchmeat were served before the district knew of the recall.

Others received meat

Cumberland Valley is one of several schools in the state that received the potentially contaminated lunchmeat through the federal school lunch program, but it is the only school that served the turkey before the recall went out.

Christian Herr, deputy secretary of regulatory programs for the Department of Agriculture, said his office had to locate the 375 cases of deli meat that came into Pennsylvania as part of the school lunch program.

"We did that as quickly as we possibly could to find out if any of it was consumed," he said, adding 53 cases were shipped to schools around the state. The remaining cases are in a warehouse and will be destroyed.

Dr. Ellen Geminiani of University Physicians Group said pregnant women, newborns and those with weakened immune systems would be most susceptible to listeria monocytogenes.

Kids rarely affected

Children and healthy adults are usually not affected, she said. "This population is not at high risk because they are generally healthy young people. It is not a significant concern."

Geminiani said consumption of the bacteria could cause symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea within two or three days. If any student comes down with such symptoms, she said the infection would be "easily treatable with antibiotics."

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