A Riverside-Brookfield High School freshman got a big surprise when she bit into a chocolate bar at school a couple of weeks ago and saw a worm.
A teacher had given another student the chocolate bar as a reward, and that student shared the chocolate with three other students, according to someone familiar with situation who asked not to be identified.
The teacher purchased the chocolate bar from a student who was selling chocolate bars as a fundraising activity for the RBHS boys soccer team.
Apparently, it was a moth larva inside the chocolate bar from Chicago-based World’s Finest Chocolate, a company used extensively by school and youth groups for fundraising.
Also selling World’s Finest Chocolate at RBHS this fall were members of the band, orchestra and choir. Reacting to the contaminated chocolate, the RBHS administration told students to immediately stop selling the candy and asked people who had bought any to return it to the school for a refund.
“We are still collecting chocolate, so I don’t know how much we will return to the company,” said RBHS Principal Kristin Smetana. “The company has agreed to refund the purchase price of the box and to provide the money that would have been made as the fundraiser.
“We have had a long standing relationship with World’s Finest Chocolate. Their representatives have been very responsive to correcting this situation by investigating the source of the contamination and providing us with a refund.”
Only one bar was found to be contaminated.
“It was one bar and one bar only, one instance” said Mike Matsen, the vice-president for customer services and systems at World’s Finest Chocolate.
Matsen said that he believes that the bar became contaminated due to mishandling after being picked up from World’s Finest Chocolate on Sept. 8 as part of an order by the soccer team.
“It was a moth larva,” Matsen said. “These are things that are associated with improper storage conditions. I don’t know where the product was and where it was stored. It was picked up in someone’s van and the weather was warm.
“It may have sat in a car for two days; it may have sat in a car for a day. You get a 90 degree: temperature, humidity, something sparks and that’s what happens.”
The contaminated chocolate bar was reported on Oct. 22, about six weeks after it was first picked up.
Matsen said World’s Finest Chocolate has stringent monitoring systems in place at its factory to ensure that its chocolate meets all health standards.
He said it was not necessary for the school to recall all of the chocolate sold to RBHS student groups this fall, but that he understands the desire of school administrators to be extra cautious.
“For this kind of thing we absolutely do not recommend that, but that’s what they chose to do,” said Matsen, who added the company ensured the school its sales would be a success no matter what. “I don’t say that they’re wrong for reacting the way they felt they needed to.”
Even though he believes his company was not at fault, Matsen said that World’s Finest Chocolate decided to not only reimburse RBHS for the price of the chocolate the student groups purchased but to also pay them lost profits from not being able to sell all the chocolate they ordered.
“We’re going to take care of them any way we can regardless of what the origin of it was,” Matsen said. “They’ve done business with us for a long time.”
World’s Finest Chocolate is a big player in the chocolate resale industry. The company manufactures and distributes 200 million chocolate bars annually.
“We’ve been in the business for 75 years; we’ve helped schools and youth organizations raise $4 billion and we’re very interested in the community,” Matsen said. “We want to make sure that while we may be eating the dollars on something that really wasn’t our fault, we want to make sure that it’s a positive relationship moving forward.”