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Dairy Sends Cleaning Fluid to School in Milk Cartons but No Action Is Likely

October 29, 1989|SHAWN HUBLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Despite the accidental delivery to an elementary school of three dozen cartons filled with cleaning fluid instead of milk, the Los Angeles Unified School District probably will not cancel its contract with Alta-Dena Certified Dairy, a district official said Saturday.

District Business Manager David Koch said the incident Thursday at El Sereno Elementary School appeared to be "a limited and isolated situation" that was corrected the next day by the dairy, which supplies milk to an estimated 30 to 50 schools in the East Los Angeles area.

Koch noted that none of the school's 796 pupils was made sick by the solution, though several accidentally sipped it Thursday morning during a school breakfast period.

The incident, which prompted demands Friday from some angry parents that the district cancel its contract with Alta-Dena, was subsequently blamed by Alta-Dena on a line operator at the City of Industry dairy and a new box-and-straw type milk carton, similar to those used for boxed juice, said Principal Corby Alsbrook.

The dairy, he explained, has been testing the new containers by filling the first few off the production line with the cleaning solution that is run through the dairy equipment to sanitize it before the milk is run through. Normally, he said, those test containers are thrown away by a line operator.

On Thursday, however they weren't. The glitch was attributed to "human error."

Alta-Dena officials could not be reached for comment, but Alsbrook said he and the parents were told that the solution--50 parts chlorine bleach to a million parts water--is harmless. In fact, he said, the dairy's public relations person drank a glass of it in front of about 80 parents.

Koch said the dairy has since promised to pack future milk shipments in traditional cardboard cartons, which, unlike the new boxes, aren't tested with the solution. Though the district will monitor Alta-Dena closely, there are no plans now to drop it as a vendor, he said.

Alsbrook called the incident "an unfortunate situation that shouldn't have occurred," but noted that "there's human error in all walks of life."

Added Koch: "No one is more concerned about maintaining appropriate health standards for the children than we are, but at the same time, we have to deal with this on a logical and rational basis."

Alsbrook said parental reaction to the explanation is split, between those who are willing to give Alta-Dena a second chance and those insisting on a switch of milk vendors.

"Alta-Dena has had some negative ink in the past," he noted, referring to numerous recalls of the dairy's raw milk products. The milk purchased by the schools, however, is pasteurized, he said.

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