School Rat Mourned; Death 'Accidental'

Posted: April 23, 1988

The president of a Philadelphia company that supplies food to school cafeterias said yesterday that it was "purely accidental" that a rat choked to death on a cracker supplied by his firm.

In an experiment similar to those performed often in other schools, sixth graders at Harrison Elementary School recently fed one rat junk food and another food from the school cafeteria to observe the effects of the different diets. On Thursday the rat eating the cafeteria food died.

"In all these years of providing this program at no extra cost to school systems, we have never lost a rat," said Richard Levin, president of Blue Ribbon Services, which has sponsored similar experiments at Harrison and other schools over the last three years. "The loss was purely accidental," he said in a press statement issued yesterday.

Levin spoke gravely of the late rat, whom the class called Nut.

"To the best of our knowledge, too much excitement and a hurriedly swallowed Saltine did Nuts in," the president said. "Be assured he was humanely buried and mourned by the sixth-grade class at Harrison Township School. The experiment is continuing with a new set of (rats)."

Levin said he received about a dozen calls from people contending that the Gloucester County elementary school was inhumane. But he said the company would continue to offer the experiment - intended to demonstrate the benefits of sound nutrition - to other schools.

In fact, two new rats were delivered to the Harrison Elementary School on Thursday.

"We believe firmly that despite the sudden departure of Nuts, the experimental rat program at Harrison Township School . . . and in other schools in the two-state area should be continued," he said.

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