For weeks, Alex Quinteros complained to his mother about something he noticed wasn’t quite right in the cafeteria at his elementary school in Queens -- the fifth-grader from Flushing said one day he saw cafeteria workers give kids expired corn bread, and on another, he said an expired muffin was offered to younger students.
“Why does this keep happening,” Alex recalled thinking. “Why do they keep serving us expired food?”
Alex’s mother, Eliana Londono, trusted her son’s judgment not to eat the questionable items at P.S. 165Q, but it wasn’t until she chaperoned a field trip -- and noticed expired products for herself -- that she became angry.
On May 21, while passing out chocolate milk drink boxes to her son and his classmates, Londono noticed the expiration date on the milk was April 23.
“My question is, whose fault is this? And is it just our school? Is it other schools in the city?” Londono said.
The expired milk was a type known as ultra-high temperature, or UHT milk. It is pasteurized to have a non-refrigerated shelf life of more than six months, but by the time it made it into the hands of the kids at P.S. 165Q, that expected shelf life was up.
Marge Feinberg, Department of Education spokeswoman, said school cafeteria personnel should have discarded the expired drink boxes.
“Late last month at P.S. 165 in Queens, we were told that the school’s supply of stored milk was available to students and that it was past its expiration date," she said. "The manager and supervisor failed to notice the expiration date and face disciplinary action. We are ensuring that proper procedures are in place so this does not happen again.”
Feinberg could not confirm the handing out of expired corn bread and muffins before the May field trip, but email exchanges between school administrators show personnel at the school were aware of questions about expiration dates.
After Londono reported the expired milk on May 21, Principal Raquel DeMillio wrote back in an email: "we were likewise concerned earlier in the school year when we noticed what you saw. At that time we asked the students not to eat anything with what we thought was a 'past due expiration date' until we got clarification."
Londono praised administrators at the school for responding to her complaint so quickly.
Milk served beyond its recommended shelf life carries an elevated risk of bacteria and could cause food poisoning.