Jim Suhr of the Associated Press reports that a Metro East trucking and distribution company that delivered tainted chicken to a Joliet elementary school in 2002, sickening more than 150 children and teachers, has been ordered to pay $277,250 in fines and restitution.
As part of Thursday’s federal sentence, prosecutors said, Madison-based Lanter Co. will pay $175,000 to the Laraway School District, which will use the funds for new textbooks and enhanced computer technology. The company also must pay $100,000 to the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, as well as $2,250 in fines.
The company will remain on probation until it makes full restitution, which includes compensatory payouts to victims of the Joliet food poisoning.
Lanter, which had been under contract by the Illinois State Board of Education to store and deliver food to schools statewide, pleaded guilty in March to charges that it transported misbranded, improperly inspected poultry products.
The company’s sentence came two weeks after a former Lanter operations manager, Edward Lee Wuebbels of Albers, was sentenced to 366 days in prison on a related charge that he conspired to defraud the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s safety inspection service.
Prosecutors said Wuebbels ordered chicken nuggets to be reboxed after receiving them from a St. Louis business where an ammonia leak had occurred in 2001.
The nuggets ended up on cafeteria trays at Joliet’s Laraway Elementary School, where on Nov. 25, 2002, more than 150 students and teachers suffered from vomiting, headaches, oral burning and diarrhea after eating the nuggets. Forty of the victims were taken to local hospitals.
Toxicology tests performed on the chicken nuggets revealed levels of anhydrous ammonia that reached 2,500 parts per million. U.S. Occupational and Health Administration standards consider 15 parts per million abnormal in food. Anhydrous ammonia is an industrial chemical used for refrigeration.
Lanter’s attorney, Ted Perryman of St. Louis, said the company was comfortable with having resolved “all the matters arising out of this unfortunate incident.”
Noting that the contamination happened at a non-Lanter site, Perryman called the matter “so unique it could never happen again.”