Apple tag snafu corrected for Manson schools

MANSON — It was a tedious job.

For two years, food service workers at the Manson School District have been pulling those tiny labels off apples before giving them to students.

They had to, a food inspector with the Chelan-Douglas Health District told them.

Turns out, they didn’t. And food service staff, who got the news last week, are rejoicing.

“It’s frustrating,” said Ken Nelson, director of food service operations for the school district. Removing the tags — the same kind as those on apples in supermarkets — from 650 apples that were served a couple of times a week at the schools “took a lot of time,” he said.

The food service workers had gotten bad advice. “Every so often we have someone doing inspections who goes a bit beyond actual requirements,” said Barry Kling, health district administrator. “It wasn’t appropriate advice and, as soon as we found out about it, we corrected it.

Kling said he did not think the inspector gave the tag-removal advice to any other school districts.

The tag situation came to light about a month ago when a Manson food service worker contacted Doug England, a health district board member and Chelan County commissioner. The food service worker was hoping to find a quicker way to remove the tags. England brought the subject up at the Feb. 28 health board meeting and learned from Kling that removing the tags was not necessary. The board then asked Kling to set the Manson food service workers straight.

“We suggest that people remove the label but they don’t have to,” Kling said. “It’s not a major food safety issue of any kind.”

The tags are used for brand and price information. “It’s all food-grade material,” said Rick Goddard, senior vice president of sales for Sinclair Systems International, a local manufacturer of the widely-used tags. “It’s inert so you’re not going to get any nutritional value out of it, but it’s not going to hurt you.”

The inspector who gave the incorrect advice is no longer with the district. Kling said that person left on their own and was not let go because of the tag snafu.