SANFORD, Maine — Pizza night is usually a treat for the Curtis household. With a 2-year-old daughter at home, AdriAnne Cole Curtis and her husband Jonathan Curtis make pizza every week or two at their home in Sanford.
It’s a good alternative to eating at restaurants while COVID-19 outbreaks surged in York County. And besides, it’s her daughter Ivy’s favorite food.
Pizza night has been trickier to pull off the last couple months since Curtis, a 33-year-old schoolteacher, went to prepare dinner with her daughter on Aug. 17 and they found scraps of sharp metal sticking out of the package.
It was terrifying for daughter Ivy.
“She had trouble sleeping for about a week afterward and kept asking how the metal got in the dough,” AdriAnne Cole Curtis said. “We had to watch YouTube videos about pizza dough manufacturing over and over because she wanted to understand how it could have happened.”
Usually an “easygoing kid,” Ivy now makes her mother inspect for metal whenever they buy pizza dough at the grocery store.
Hannaford, Shaw’s and other area supermarkets have cleared the shelves of Portland Pie Co. pizza products since Saco police said last week that a plant worker had inserted razor blades into pizza dough packages at a Scarborough manufacturing facility.
Nicholas Mitchell, 38, was arrested Sunday night in Dover, New Hampshire, for tampering with the products. He was an employee at It’ll Be Pizza, which prepares branded dough balls under Portland Pie Co. brand at retail locations in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.
Curtis bought the dough at the Hannaford in Sanford on Aug. 14, she said, making her case the earliest incident that investigators have on record, according to Saco Police Sgt. Chris Hardiman.
Curtis assumed the foreign object she found in the dough was nothing malicious, and just “some rare mistake.” She returned the product to the Hannaford store manager that week and received a refund.
“She said that another customer had found a similar object in the dough and that the blade didn’t match the ones on the utility knives the Hannaford employees use,” Curtis said.
The Hannaford manager told her that she would be “in contact with the company about it,” but there was no action until this month.
“As part of the investigation of malicious tampering in Saco, Hannaford’s Food Safety team learned that a similar object had also been found in pizza dough in Sanford in August,” Ericka Dodge, a spokesperson for the supermarket said on Tuesday. “This incident was reported correctly at store level but not appropriately elevated within Hannaford.”
Hannaford is “thoroughly reviewing this matter and implementing additional safeguards to ensure this kind of internal reporting problem never occurs again,” Dodge said. The supermarket is working with investigators and has expanded product recalls to “all potentially impacted products” from Aug. 1 through Oct. 11, the date Hannaford pulled items from its shelves. Shaw’s and Star Market supermarkets followed suit. No one has reported injuries because of the contamination.
The Curtises notified Portland Pie Co. through a form on the company’s website in late August but didn’t receive a reply.
Mike White, CEO of It’ll Be Pizza, said the incident “has no direct connection to Portland Pie Co. restaurants or any of its menu items.”
He described the man accused of tampering with the dough as “an ex-employee.”
The Curtis family has put the incident behind them, continuing to buy pizza dough and finding no issues. For a while, their daughter Ivy wouldn’t touch the crust, but has recently begun eating whole slices again.