Food bank responds after news of baby formula contamination - Tucson News Now

Food bank responds after news of baby formula contamination

Jennifer Laplante (Source: KOLD News 13) Jennifer Laplante (Source: KOLD News 13)
Source: KOLD Source: KOLD
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Contamination can be a major problem for food banks, when much of their supply comes from grocery store donations.

Lou Medran with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona said quality control is a rigorous process.

"Usually when we get the donations from the grocery stores, they come in through the receiving department. It gets weighed in, sorted, and then it's finally set up for distribution. But it goes through a three or four step sorting process. You check it for labels. You check to make sure expiration dates are good. You check to make sure the integrity of the can or the box is good."

Medran is trying to avoid a situation seen this week, involving 30-year-old Jennifer Laplante allegedly running a scam. 

Police said she bought baby formula at specific stores around Tucson, emptied the containers, filled them with things like flour, resealed them, and returned them to the store.

One child reportedly got sick from the faulty formula at this Fry's Food Store at 7050 E. 22nd St.

Hearing the news had him on high alert.

"You're also thinking, hey, it's us this time. It really is. It's Tucson. It's not in another state or another city. It's right here at home, and this is really key," Medran said. "And then it just goes through your mind, how did that happen? What would cause somebody to do something like that?"

Medran said they took the problem very seriously, immediately pulling all baby formula product off of the food bank shelves, out of an abundance of caution.

He explained that an isolated incident like this did not waver his belief, that they are "confident" about the safety of the food that comes from the grocery store. 

"But even so, a lot of that product will show up on alert all of a sudden. The grocery store knows about it, we know about it, and we end up calling each other. So everybody is on top of it for food safety. Because it really is just a constant battle," he said.

By his rough estimate, Medran said private food drives account for about 10 percent of their stock, but the majority comes from grocery stores.

Quality is vital for Medran, especially with an estimated 3,000 visitors per month passing through the facility at 3003 S. Country Club Rd. in Tucson.

"We're a food safety handling facility. So that's primary for us. We're just like a restaurant, a grocery store, or anything else. It's all about food safety first. There's no point in doing this if you can't provide the public safe meals. So it's all about food safety."

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