Kaitaia College is working with health authorities and the local hospital to ensure the safety of students after they were served raw chicken tenders supplied by school lunch provider, Bells Produce.
Advice from the Health Protection Officer in Whangārei to parents of students is to immediately go to a health professional or the emergency department if their child has stomach cramps, starts vomiting or experiences diarrhoea.
One mother told the Northern Advocate she had to take her son home after he ate some of the chicken tenders and experienced symptoms of salmonella poisoning.
Maria Parsons, mother of student Ben Parsons, 14 said he vomited three times at school before she picked him up.
Parsons said she was “disappointed” in Bells Produce.
“That’s basic health and safety guidelines,” she said, “and I know they’ve got a certified chef.
“The Ministry of Health really needs to go in and audit and investigate what’s really going on with the team,” she said.
Kaitaia College principal Louise Anaru put up an urgent communication on the school’s Facebook page, stating she had contacted the relevant authorities.
“I am sorry to report some students may have eaten raw chicken in their lunches today,” she said, “I immediately contacted the health authorities.”
Anaru said she would update parents and caregivers as more information comes available, and extended her apologies.
“We are very sorry this has happened and have reported this immediately to the lunch provider, Health Agencies and MPI Food Safety Authority Ministry.”
Bells Produce has since provided a statement, apologising for the mistake.
“Firstly we would like to apologise to the school and children who this may have affected. All of the lunches were recalled as a safety measure once we were notified,” they said.
“We understand this is a concerning issue and we will be investigating what may have caused this issue as well as working with the school and everyone required in this matter to work through it.
“Once again we are deeply sorry to everybody involved and that those affected lunches were not to a safe and acceptable standard that should be expected.”
A social media post on the Kaitaia Community Page of the raw chicken quickly gained traction as concerned parents and students commented.
“That’s really poor from the provider. Inexcusable,” one commentator said.
It is currently unknown how many students are experiencing symptoms of food poisoning.
“Kaitaia College takes the health and safety of all its students and staff very seriously and is doing all it can to ensure those affected receive the appropriate medical attention,” said Board of Trustees chairperson Diane Laurenson.
“Once students are safe, the college will investigate how this happened,” she said.
This story was originally published on the New Zealand Herald.