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Food Allergies Accommodation Issues

A December 20, 2012 settlement agreement between The United States of America and Lesley University (DJ 202-36-231) resolved a complaint which alleged that students with food allergies were denied full and equal access to and enjoyment of the University’s food service and meal plan system. 

The Agreement provides, in pertinent part:

  • Food allergies may constitute a disability under the ADA.
  • Institutions are required to provide reasonable modifications that do not fundamentally alter the nature of their dining and food service plans and programs.
  • The University is required through Disability Services to work with students to develop individualized plans to address their accommodation needs regarding food allergies.
  • The food choices and meals offered to students pursuant to plans to address their food allergies must be “nutritionally comparable to the food choices offered other students, to the extent reasonably possible.”

The University is required to incorporate into the contract with the third party Food Service Provider the obligation to comply with its policies and procedures regarding reasonable modifications. Additionally, there is a provision requiring the Food Service Provider’s staff to receive educational training regarding a) food allergy awareness; b) cross-contamination, proper food storage, preparation and food safety practices; c) handling inquiries regarding allergies; and d) the University’s procedures for addressing student requests for meal plan modifications and exemptions. Further, the University is obligated “to enforce the Food Service Provider’s compliance” with the above described contact provisions.

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