COVINGTON - Students in Newton County won't get to eat any peanut butter sandwiches or cookies for a while.
Earlier this month, Newton County School System officials in the food services department announced that schools are temporarily holding all food products containing peanut butter as a precautionary measure. This includes peanut butter from 5-pound containers and peanut butter cookie dough.
"The Newton County School Nutrition Program staff decided to replace the peanut butter sandwiches and the peanut butter cookies as a voluntary measure to reassure parents," said Jan Loomans, director of school foods at NCSS, in an e-mail. "The School Nutrition Program does not purchase any of the product involved in product recalls issued as of (Wednesday). We chose to remove the two items from our menu so that parents would have no need to question the food that their children eat at school."
So far at least 550 people in 43 states have had salmonella poisoning from peanut butter products produced at a peanut plant in Blakely, prompting recalls that began in January.
Loomans said neither the Georgia Department of Education, nor any other entity, has asked her department to do this - the department workers decided on their own - but they do receive daily recall updates from the Georgia DOE.
The school food services department doesn't operate the vending machines that are in school buildings, but Loomans said she notified principals, who are responsible for those, about the recall and gave them the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Web site where all of the recall notices are posted.
Loomans said she doesn't know how long the schools will do without peanut butter products, but her department is storing its peanut butter products, which are not under the recall, to be served at a later date.
"We will continue to monitor the situation daily, and when the FDA indicates that all unsafe products have been recalled and destroyed, we will put peanut butter sandwiches and cookies back on the menus," Loomans said. "We hope that the items will be returned to the (school lunch) menus in March."
For a complete list of recalled items, visit www.accessdata.fda.gov
Michelle Floyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.