Students at Susan B. Anthony Elementary School in Westminster on Wednesday were served cheddar cheese sauce marked with an expiration date (pictured below) that suggests the food spoiled some eight months ago.
On Thursday, school district officials defended use of the food and acknowledged that it was used in 30 Garden Grove Unified schools. That means, some 11,000 students might have eaten it.
"There's a perception that because the food had an expiration date and was served beyond that date, the food was unsafe to serve," said school spokesman Alan Trudell. "That's patently untrue. That expiration date does not mean that the food will spoil the next day."
But sources told NBC4 that school officials had an emergency meeting about the issue early Thursday morning, and that changes were made in school menus.
Several people working in food service at the school apparently complained about the incident to their managers on Wednesday. And kitchen managers were allegedly ordered to put the questionable item on Wednesday's lunch menu anyway. They were also told to falsify records for state reimbursed meals, according to a source close to the situation.
Update: According to school spokesman Alan Trudell, the Garden Grove School District never falsified records.
Trudell told NBC4 News that officials have seen the label and they are looking into the allegations.
"After doing some investigation, we did find out that a cheddar cheese sauce (with an expired date) was served for a nacho type lunch," said Trudell. "These sauces are heated and served. This was an expiration date used by processors to be used under normal circumstances."
Trudell said he spoke to food experts and they told him "that when properly handled, the usefulness can be extended."
"We would never compromise health and safety of our students,” he said.
The school has sent samples of the food to an independent lab for analysis. Results of those tests are expected Friday.