Alaskan school entrepreneur mistook sealer for milk after finding it in food storage warehouse

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A dozen Alaskan school children were given floor sealer for breakfast this week because the product was accidentally delivered to a food-only warehouse and then mistaken for milk, school district officials said.

The Juneau School District said in a statement that an investigation by multiple agencies, including police, into the apparent incident revealed more information about what happened on Tuesday.

Students attending a summer child care program at Sitʼ Eeti Shaanáx̱ Glacier Valley Elementary School in Juneau were given the sealer Tuesday at breakfast and began complaining of the taste and a burning sensation in the mouth and throat almost immediately, the school district said.

Twelve children and two adults each drank up to 3 ounces of sealer. The 12 students were recovering Wednesday evening, and some had fully recovered, the district said.

The initial error dates back to the spring of 2021, when a pallet of sealant was mistakenly delivered to a school district food warehouse along with four pallets of shelf-stable milk, the district said.

This week, district contractor Nana Management Services “ran out of milk,” the district said, and sent workers to the district warehouse to pick up some earlier Tuesday.

Of three schools that each received a box of floor sealer mistaken for milk, only one used it: Sitʼ Eeti Shaanáx̱ Glacier Valley Elementary School, the district said.

Glacier Valley Elementary School in Juneau, Alaska.Google Maps

The district did not name any of those involved, but said a Nana Management Services employee poured the sealant while milk and other staff put it on food trays.

“The NMS worker took the box of floor sealer and poured its contents into breakfast cups,” the Juneau District said. “Breakfast was prepared by NMS staff and placed on food serving trays, which students brought to a cafeteria table to eat.”

The “lightly flavored” liquid looks a bit like milk, the district said.

It was unclear whether the workers involved in the mix-up would face disciplinary or other action.

Nana Management Services disputed part of the district’s account, saying it ordered a new shipment of milk after the district’s supply ran out under a $100,000 grant, but did not It hadn’t happened, said Dawn Kimberlin, the entrepreneur’s vice president of marketing and communications.

A back-up plan called for the milk to be barged in from Seattle, she said, but that delivery included the sealant, which the contractor said had been ordered or destined for the district.

“They delivered floor filler with supplies that weren’t noted on the delivery slip,” Kimberlin said via email. “The NMS did not identify the sealant because it looked like ‘milk’ and the district did not identify that it was missing sealant.”

The entrepreneur also said packaging is in a state of flux due to pandemic supply chain issues. While the milk was usually in individual portions, handlers were used to seeing different shapes and sizes as solutions, which made it harder to identify the sealer in the middle of the milk, Kimberlin said.

“It’s not an excuse, but it sheds light on the work environment,” she said.

The district is dealing with the fallout from the incident and said some parents found out about the mix-up from other parents, not the district directly.

“The district is reviewing emergency communication protocols for faster notification to parents,” he said.

The remaining sealant was removed from storage and state food safety officials inspected the district facilities, he said.

The investigation into what happened on Tuesday is ongoing.

Phil Helsel and Joe Studley contributed.

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