CCE calls educator’s moldy food statement ‘unfounded, a mischaracterization’

Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 4:44 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - “Unfounded and a mischaracterization.” That’s what Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County says about an educator’s statement about moldy food being served at an after-school program at a Watertown school.

Liliana Ruiz addressed the city school board Tuesday night. She claimed moldy food has been a constant issue at a 4-H program at Wiley Intermediate School. Ruiz said she has addressed the issue before, but not to the school board.

“Knowing that no one from Wiley or my colleagues have done anything is also a concern to me,” she said.

CCE said it launched an immediate investigation and took statements from six CCE staff who have direct knowledge of the meals served during the 4-H program at Wiley.

“We can confirm that the statement made to the Board of Education on February 28th was unfounded and a mischaracterization of the food served,” CCE said in a news release.

However, CCE did confirm that mold was found on sandwiches on February 27.

“This issue was immediately reported to the WCSD Food Service Department; the cause quickly identified as being a result of built up moisture within the packaging; and the issue resolved by the WCSD Food Service Department through a change in their procedures. This incident occurred on Monday, February 27th, 2023 and appeared to spark the statement made by the staff person at the February 28th Watertown City School District Board meeting,” CCE said in a prepared statement.

Before that date, CCE said, “There have been rare occurrences of single items being damaged/spoiled.”

Officials said the items were always served within the expiration date stamped on the item and, once discovered, thrown away.

“Regarding food safety, Watertown CSD Food Service Department and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County stand by the food served as being safe and nutritious,” said CCE.