After five children were sickened last week — and two were hospitalized — from eating donated candy infused with THC, the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis, the Utah Food Bank announced Monday that it has changed procedures to help ensure that never happens again.
It will have its paid staff, which is more accustomed to look for problematic donations, sort through them before sending them along to volunteers at churches and other pantries that distribute the products.
“These commercial donations that come to us will be unpacked in our warehouse and sorted first rather than just passing them on to pantries,” said Ginette Bott, Utah Food Bank president and CEO.
“Because we do it all the time, we might have a little better eye than perhaps a volunteer who might be at a location that doesn’t do it regularly,” she said. “It allows perhaps another level of inspection and verification before it moves on.”
The problem last week came from “Medicated Nerds Rope Candy” that arrived in what the food bank calls a bulk commercial donation and was distributed. The ropes contained 400mg of THC. They were in packaging that included a THC warning label and dosage information.
The food bank issued a statement that the packages “look exactly like regular Nerds Rope packages, so it is almost impossible to detect the difference unless a person knows specifically what to look for.”
Ferrara Candy, which makes Nerds, issued a statement saying it did not make the THC-laced candy.
“This product is counterfeit and in no way associated with Ferrara Candy Company," it said. "We want to reassure consumers that Nerds products donated directly by the company, found at major retailers across the country or purchased through nerdscandy.com, are safe to consume. We have reached out to the local authorities and will continue to cooperate with their investigation.”
The Utah Food Bank said it was able to trace all products that came as a part of the same bulk commercial donation, and the First Baptist Church of Roy was the only partner agency that received the candy.
The church and the Roy Police Department found that about 70 families received food distributions containing those products. Five children became sick after eating it, and two were hospitalized but have been released.
The statement from the food bank said police collected the candy from all the families they were able to reach.
“We are absolutely horrified that this product went out to any of our partner agencies and can easily see how volunteers would not have known what to look for,” Bott said. “We apologize to any families who may have received this product.”
The Utah Food Bank also said it contacted 200 food banks nationally that are part of the Feeding America network to notify them that such a product exists, and what to look for.
Bott said the changes in procedure should still allow the food bank to accept packaged foods — not just cans — and items such as candy.
“Families want everything that families enjoy,” she said. “So, we’re always so pleased to have such a great representation of donations that comes to us from so many different places.”
Bott added that one “donation like this that is so incredibly scary can ruin a lot. But I think we’ve got some things in place now that will be helpful to these pantries so nothing like this can happen again.”