12 Alaska kids and 2 adults drank floor sealant instead of milk at Sitʼ Eeti Shaanáx̱-Glacier Valley Elementary, in Juneau. On Tuesday morning, milk bags and the sealant bags were mixed up. This led to multiple complaints and one hospitalization.
Superintendent Bridget Weiss noted that police are investigating the incident which involved children ages 5-12. It took place during the school’s day care program. School officials later determined what happened by tracing food storage protocols to an off-site location where the milk bags are stored in with boxes on a pallet. The floor sealant, which is also stored in bags and has a milky-white color, was stored in the same facility and accidentally placed on the same pallet as the milk. The entire pallet was delivered to the school for their milk order and so the Alaska kids were served floor sealant instead of milk accidentally.
Investigators are currently seeking answers as to why food and drink items are being stored with sensitive chemical-based items like floor sealant. This simple mistake has proven how dangerous placing those two items in the same area can be. Although the Alaska kids have recovered, many suffered nausea from drinking the odorless chemical.
Concerns over children’s health in schools have been an issue for years, but cases like what happened to these Alaska kids are rare. Unfortunately, issues concerning school lunches aren’t unknown. While meeting children’s nutritional needs is challenging — as schools work to follow a budget and provide meals for numerous children — school food workers are not always as attentive as they should be to expiration dates and proper food safety regulations.
While the Alaska kids were not harmed, getting sick from school food is something other children have experienced throughout the country. Just last month a Hazelwood School District mother raised concerns after her daughter got sick from eating expired food in Missouri. Last year, parents in Woodbridge, New Jersey called out public schools for serving students undercooked burgers, frozen sandwiches, and expired milk. In Atlanta, the DeKalb County School District apologized for serving expired food that was rotting.
These incidents have occurred for years. In 2019 a dozen children were given expired string cheese, and before that, multiple schools in Tennessee fed students six-year-old pork that had expired. Proper nutrition is essential for students. What they eat not only fuels their bodies but their ability to pay attention and learn as well. After years of incidents involving students being fed expired or improperly cooked/thawed foods, now a dozen Alaska kids have ingested floor sealant. What’s more, the school is in full operation today without any charges filed for negligence.
While the mix-up may have been an accident, school protocols allowed Alaska kids to be given unsafe chemicals to drink. This was caused by irresponsible food storage practices, and the staff’s lack of attention to detail. Thankfully the children involved have not experienced known long-term harm, but this mistake displays improper food safety protocols that put students at risk and must be updated to ensure food lunch safety.