NEWS
12/19/2013 07:45 EST | Updated 02/18/2014 05:59 EST

School's peanut butter drive ends after parents complain

An elementary school’s peanut butter drive, designed to benefit the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, has been cancelled after parents of kids with peanut allergies said it was too risky.

Sacred Heart Catholic elementary school in LaSalle, Ont., west of Windsor, originally asked the Society of St. Vincent de Paul which food item was in particular demand this holiday season and was told peanut butter.

Peanut butter and canned meats are staples at food banks because they’re high in protein and have a long shelf life.

The drive started in late November and came to an abrupt end Nov. 28 after parents complained. News of the cancellation just came to light this week.

Pamela Baski, president of the Windsor chapter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, said she was told to pick up the peanut butter "immediately." When she did, she found the peanut butter being stored in the principal's office.

However, a dietician with the Windsor-Essex Health Unit said brand new jars of peanut butter pose a "low risk" for people with peanut allergies. 

"There's never zero percent chance of risk," said Tara Galloro. "But because the product is sealed in its original package and most packages are sterilized at the processing plant."

Principal Zina Vivier then apologized for the idea in a letter sent home with the entire student body. She promised the event wouldn’t be held again.

Baski picked up the peanut butter on Dec. 2. A spokesperson said the drive was “well intentioned” and that she was surprised by the generosity. The school collected enough peanut butter to fill a car.

“Thanks to all the families who so generously donated to this worthy cause. A jar of peanut butter and bread goes a long way for a family,” a posting on the school’s website says.

“Please be aware that we are still a peanut free school and refrain from sending in items that contain nuts or peanuts,” the post goes on to say.

Despite the risk being low, Galloro said reactions as serious as anaphylactic shock can happen even with very little contact.

"Even something as minor as the smell of nuts," she said.

School officials directed all calls to the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board. The board did not immediately return any of the calls CBC made on Wednesday.

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