vending machines in schools

Posted on: Thu, 04/20/2006 - 2:51am
school nurse's picture
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Joined: 04/20/2006 - 09:00

I am a school nurse and have about 10 students with known Peanut Allergies. Our school has recently purchased a vending machine for use by the students. It will contain healthy snack choices for after school activities/sports. (During a time when there are no medical personnel in the buildings). We will not have peanut products in the machine. However, our food service manager thinks it's ok to have products that "may contain trace amounts of peanuts, or may be manufactured in a plant where nuts are processed". My concern is that if these products break open during the dispensing process, that other products that fall in the same area may be cross contaminated with nuts on the packaging or the contents if it also breaks open. Is it possible for this type of cross-contamination to occur? And do you think it is a good idea to include these products. As a registered nurse, I am concerned about this. The health/nutrition committee is not taking a stand on the issue yet, and has asked me to research it more. Any information that you can provide would be very helpful. Thank you.

Posted on: Thu, 04/20/2006 - 4:21am
notnutty's picture
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Joined: 03/15/2004 - 09:00

Thank you for finding this Board and being so concerned about the well being of our PA children.
I think everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to things like this. I am wondering specifically what snacks are "healthy" and have a "may contain" label. Do you have specific products in mind?
I think I would be o.k. with the may contains in the vending machine. The chances of cross contamination, I feel, are very slim in this type of situation. I think I would be more concerned with the products being all over the school...but again if they are only "may contain" products, perhaps I would be comfortable.
Sorry for the rambling post, I think I would have to know what the product is to determine specifically if I would be comfortable. Cheese crackers with a may contain...probably comfortable. Trail mixes...probably not.
You could also ask the parents of the current PA children and see what they think.
Hopefully others have ideas they can share as well. Again thanks for checking in with us...I wish we had more schools that concerned.
Donna

Posted on: Thu, 04/20/2006 - 5:12am
Momcat's picture
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Joined: 03/15/2005 - 09:00

I think it would be ok to have most "may contain" or "manufactured on" items in a vending machine. That said, I would not include things such as cashews, almonds or other tree nuts. These often DO contain traces of peanuts, and many peanut allergic people are also allergic to tree nuts.
I think the chance of may contain items breaking open and contaminating the machine is lower than the machine being contaminated by peanut butter residue on the hands of people using it. Those highly sensitive, peanut allergic students would probably not be buying food from vending machines, but it would be nice to put a sign on the machine stating that some items may contain peanuts. It's annoying to buy a snack from a machine, only to read the ingredients and then find out that it is unsafe.
Another consideration is how thoroughly they clean the machine before installing it in your school. I think vending companies reuse the machines. It could have contained peanut items in the past.
Cathy
------------------
Mom to 6 1/2 yr old PA/TNA daughter and 3 yr old son who is allergic to eggs.
[This message has been edited by Momcat (edited April 20, 2006).]

Posted on: Thu, 04/20/2006 - 5:30am
Gail W's picture
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Joined: 12/06/2001 - 09:00

Quote:Originally posted by school nurse:
[b]I am a school nurse and have about 10 students with known Peanut Allergies. Our school has recently purchased a vending machine for use by the students. It will contain healthy snack choices for after school activities/sports. (During a time when there are no medical personnel in the buildings). We will not have peanut products in the machine. However, our food service manager thinks it's ok to have products that "may contain trace amounts of peanuts, or may be manufactured in a plant where nuts are processed". My concern is that if these products break open during the dispensing process, that other products that fall in the same area may be cross contaminated with nuts on the packaging or the contents if it also breaks open. Is it possible for this type of cross-contamination to occur? And do you think it is a good idea to include these products. As a registered nurse, I am concerned about this. The health/nutrition committee is not taking a stand on the issue yet, and has asked me to research it more. Any information that you can provide would be very helpful. Thank you.[/b]
I also applaud your efforts. I wish all schools could have a school nurse who so clearly understands the intricate details of cross-contamination. Your students are fortunate to have you. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
My daughter is contact sensitive to peanut. (This has been confirmed in a clinical challenge to markers contaminated with peanut butter that were wiped clean... conducted by her allergist in a hospital.)
For me, I see two issues. One is the possibility of cross-contamination that you bring up. We use vending machines, and while it is always a possibility that the wrapper is contaminated with other food, we still purchase and eat food from vending machines. (The only exception to this is that we never use the candy machines that dispense candy that is unwrapped, such as gumballs, jaw breakers, etc.. We do not use those machine because the food is unwrapped and we consider it very high risk.)
Issue number two for me is that it's impossible to read the ingredient labels before purchasing the vending machine food. While I know that ingredient (and hence labels) are subject to change, I have always wished some sort of display of the product labels so that I could read them and know if they are safe prior to purchasing the food. In my ideal world, all the ingredient labels would be displayed somehow with information about allergies highlighted (e.g. "may contain" or "manufactured in") so that my daughter could purchase with confidence. Of course, the label must be read each and every time, and maybe the display could even state that as a helpful reminder. Such a display board would also be an opportunity to raise awareness to other non-allergic students who would also see it.
Chartwell's (Compass USA) has a great website that has a page on their vending machines. I wonder if that might be helpful to you. I'll see if I can find it and link you.
What grade-level is your school?
I wish MommaBear was posting. . . she'd love to see your question. She's a huge admirer of school nurses. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
[This message has been edited by Gail W (edited April 20, 2006).]

Posted on: Thu, 04/20/2006 - 6:21am
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Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

Thank you so much for doing your research so you can determine what is the right thing to do. Your school is very lucky to have you. I do buy my DS chips and stuff out of vending machines when we are out and that's what's available. But I don't like it for the reason Gail W stated--you can't read the label until after you take it out of the machine. So I never buy DS anything that I'm not very sure is safe (I still check the label after buying, but I don't want to be stuck with a snack he can't have and a frustrated son if I can help it).

Posted on: Thu, 04/20/2006 - 8:24am
Yonit's picture
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Joined: 06/24/2002 - 09:00

My son is also contact sensitive, and I would have concern about "may contain" items that tend to be crumbly, are more likely to leave residues, or have a higher chance of cross-contamination. Items such as granola bars, breakfast/energy bars, cookies, chips which may use nut oils are some of the products that come to mind. There are many items that can go in a vending machine that are not "may contain" -- perhaps it's worth the effort to seek those out, both in order to be "better safe than sorry" and to reinforce the message that there are, indeed, healthier, and nut-safe products out there that most of the students could enjoy.
I also think that your concern and efforts on this issue are terrific. I wonder if there is a place to post such a discussion on a school nurse board. It might be valuable for other school nurses to learn from your efforts and your attitude - and perhaps some of them would have positive and helpful advice to offer as well.

Posted on: Thu, 04/20/2006 - 10:45pm
school nurse's picture
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Joined: 04/20/2006 - 09:00

Thank you so much to everyone that has replied to me so far. I am a middle school nurse with 7th and 8th graders. We are located in a building that also houses the high school. You have some good information that you all have obviously worked so hard to obtain to continue to keep your children safe. I applaud all of your efforts. I have thought about posting warnings on the vending machines, additional notices next to the products in question and sending notices home to each child with a cautionary statement to make the parents aaware. My goal is to have the products not used at all. Some of the products are trail mixes and granola bars. These are the type of products that worry me the most. We have a lot of other great items we are sing as well including fresh fruit, baked bagel chips, pretzels... The machine is a new machine that we purchased, so we don't have to worry about the old products that may have been in it. Thanks again for your comments, and please keep them coming.

Posted on: Fri, 04/21/2006 - 1:25am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I'm an adult with food allergies. (Thought I'd point that out because this is one of the topics that sometimes are different when it's a child.)
I eat out of those machines. If I get a package and it's been opened, I would never eat it. PA aside - I worry about germs. And, if it's been open a while it's going to be stale, possibly moldy.
**********
Trail mixes actually have nuts in them don't they? If nut is an actual ingredient then the item is not a *may contain* or a *trace amount*.
There are some pa safe granola bars, and there are many that have *may contain* warnings but don't actually have nuts in them.
**********
Here's a suggestion that I (as an individual with allergies) would appreciate. If you could post the list of ingredients, and warnings, maybe on the side of the machine. Sometimes, I'm looking at the selection and I [i]think[/i] a product is safe, but I'm not sure. Either I waste money by buying it and it has a warning, or I might pass on what I want that turns out to be safe. Unfortunately, this would be a big undertaking, because you would have to be constantly checking the packaging to see if there are any changes. (But, in a perfect world.....)
***********
Since I'm assuming you are in the US I can't help you with actual brands. But, some safe and healthy choices are: popcorn, sunflower seeds, granola bars, dried fruit.

Posted on: Fri, 04/21/2006 - 2:49am
Gail W's picture
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Joined: 12/06/2001 - 09:00

Sun Butter makes a trail mix that is nut free that contain sunflower seeds and soy:
[url="http://www.sunbutter.com/products.asp#7"]http://www.sunbutter.com/products.asp#7[/url]
Does your School District have any policies regarding foods served in the cafeteria? Does the SD or the principal provide guidance for the Director of Food Services as to what foods can be served in the breakfast and lunch program?
FYI, my daughter is a 6th grader in Middle School (Middle School is 6,7,8 here). The School District does not have a policy re the food that is served in the schools, and presently each building principal has the authority to decide how to manage food offerings. (A policy is needed, and is in the works. . .)
At our Middle School, the principal has decided that all food provided by the school is 'nut free' but that a limited number of pre-packaged 'may contains' may be available on the "a la carte" line. Her strategy is that those 'may contains' are separated from the other food choices and are very clearly marked as 'may contain' foods. (They are all placed in one basket that has a sign stating that these items "may contain nuts". )
We presently don't have vending machines in the Middle School, but there are several at the High School. I appreciate thinking about it now as my DD will be there in just 2 years.

Posted on: Fri, 04/21/2006 - 2:57am
Codyman's picture
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Joined: 08/14/2002 - 09:00

In Canada, vending machines are not allowed in schools, unless they sell something healthy ~ water, juice. Many elementary schools have removed vending machines.

Posted on: Thu, 04/20/2006 - 4:21am
notnutty's picture
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Joined: 03/15/2004 - 09:00

Thank you for finding this Board and being so concerned about the well being of our PA children.
I think everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to things like this. I am wondering specifically what snacks are "healthy" and have a "may contain" label. Do you have specific products in mind?
I think I would be o.k. with the may contains in the vending machine. The chances of cross contamination, I feel, are very slim in this type of situation. I think I would be more concerned with the products being all over the school...but again if they are only "may contain" products, perhaps I would be comfortable.
Sorry for the rambling post, I think I would have to know what the product is to determine specifically if I would be comfortable. Cheese crackers with a may contain...probably comfortable. Trail mixes...probably not.
You could also ask the parents of the current PA children and see what they think.
Hopefully others have ideas they can share as well. Again thanks for checking in with us...I wish we had more schools that concerned.
Donna

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