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Mealworms found in rice served to Florida elementary students

By
Ben Hooper
Rice was pulled from the menu at all Orange County Public Schools in Florida after live mealworms were found in the uncooked rice at Killarney Elementary School. WFTV video screenshot
Rice was pulled from the menu at all Orange County Public Schools in Florida after live mealworms were found in the uncooked rice at Killarney Elementary School. WFTV video screenshot

WINTER PARK, Fla., Dec. 9 (UPI) -- A Florida school district pulled rice from its menus after an elementary school student found a worm in his food and live mealworms were found in uncooked rice.

Kelly Steinke, principal at Killarney Elementary School in Winter Park, sent a letter home to parents Tuesday night explaining a student had found a dead mealworm in his food and school employees subsequently found live mealworms in the uncooked rice.

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"As a precaution, the rice has been recalled at Killarney and every other school in the district to ensure that this matter has not been replicated," Steinke said.

Steinke said the rice had been delivered to the school within the previous 24 hours, leading officials to believe the worms were already in the food when it arrived.

She said the rice was replaced in the meals Tuesday and the vendor that delivered the rice was informed of the issue.

"The health and safety of our students is paramount and the reputation of our award-winning food services division is highly guarded. OCPS will be investigating this matter until we have the necessary answers," Steinke said.

She said the mealworms are believed to be non-toxic, but parents were urged to watch their children for symptoms of illness.

Parent Shauna Jackson said she will be packing her child's lunch for the foreseeable future. "Because then it makes you wonder what else is in there," Jackson told WFTV.

"I feel like somebody should have seen it when they first opened the container. And if not, then somebody should have seen it when it was being cooked," Jackson said. "I mean, it took a child to bring it up."

Steinke's full letter to parents read:

"Good afternoon parents, this is principal Kelly Steinke at Killarney Elementary School. I want to make you aware that today, during lunch, one of our students identified what appeared to be a worm in their meal. Technical staff from food service immediately inspected the meal and found the presence of a dead mealworm. Upon further inspection, the presence of live worms were confirmed in the uncooked rice. The vendor was contacted immediately, as a precaution, the rice has been recalled at Killarney and every other school in the District to ensure that this matter has not been replicated.

"Students were given an alternative replacement for the rice. Because the rice had been delivered to the school within the last 24 hours, OCPS does not believe the issue arose at the school. The health and safety of our students is paramount and the reputation of our award winning food services division is highly guarded. OCPS will be investigating this matter until we have the necessary answers. OCPS does not believe that consumption of the rice will lead to serious health issues. The mealworm present in the meal was cooked and the District has consulted with a statewide expert who believes that the worms would not be toxic or would not cause health problems if ingested. However, we do ask that you please contact the school tomorrow should your child report any unusual symptoms this evening. Thank you for your support of Killarney Elementary School."

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