Court says schools not liable for allergens contained in school meals

Maryland court rules on peanut case saying foodservice department not accountable for student's reaction.

March 7--Nicole Pace told the school nurse that her daughter was deathly allergic to peanuts and had her 5-year-old's allergist provide Hillcrest Elementary School in Frederick with a pre-measured dose of medicine, just in case.

But a cafeteria worker — unaware of the danger peanuts posed to the girl, Liana — gave her a peanut butter sandwich.

"The child immediately began experiencing an anaphylactic reaction; her airway and eyelids began to swell, and she became lethargic and confused," according to court records. Liana's epinephrine was administered, and she was rushed to the hospital. She survived the attack but developed anxiety, became fearful of her school and eventually was transferred.

Although the public school failed to prevent Liana from being exposed to her food allergen, the state cannot be held accountable for what happened to her, according to a decision this week by the state's highest court.

Maryland, its Department of Education and its superintendent of schools are not responsible for ensuring that school-provided lunches are free of allergens that could send students to the hospital in anaphylactic shock, the Court of Appeals ruled. A state cannot be found negligent under the National School Lunch Act, which requires states to provide nutritious meals to students in need, the court said.

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
ranch dressing chicken fingers

While salad bars are often the first place K-12 operators look to incorporate more fresh produce, few go as far as making their own salad dressings. But last fall, in a continuing effort to transition from prepackaged meals to an all-scratch menu, Mark Augustine, executive chef of culinary and nutrition services for Minneapolis Public Schools, switched to concocting four varieties in-house—ranch, Caesar, Italian and Asian vinaigrette. The move, designed to eliminate artificial ingredients and lower fat and sodium, presented the biggest challenge when it came to ranch dressing, the school-...

Ideas and Innovation
phone bed call sick

We make people call and directly talk to their boss or supervisor if they are reporting an absence for a shift. While it is more cumbersome, it is a conscious decision. We have adapted and implemented electronic methods to obtain efficiencies in just about every other functional area, except for electronic absence reporting systems. The direct supervisor can put more pressure on an employee to show up—especially those with some form of the “Super Bowl plague”—than any electronic system can.

Ideas and Innovation
tug hospital robot

Automation has opened up in recent years as foodservice operators across the country grapple with labor shortages. Robots deliver food trays to patients in hospitals, and they make sushi on college campuses. For some operators, they’re worthwhile to reduce strain on human employees and increase productivity.

Robots roamed the hallways when the University of California San Francisco Medical Center’s new Mission Bay campus opened last year. Though these robots have nicknames like Wall-E and Tuggie McFresh, they’re not a novelty. They’re a solution to a problem that administrators...

Ideas and Innovation
business card

We get the new folks abridged business cards saying, “Hi, my name is so-and-so and I work in nutrition department.” We thought it would give them more ownership of the program and elevate their status and position in the organization. It also gives our team more self-confidence and self-worth as an employee, which can be a challenge with foodservice workers.

FSD Resources