Food servers more vulnerable to legal threats

Topics: From the Wires,

Food servers more vulnerable to legal threatsFILE - This Nov. 11, 2008, file photo, shows gluten-free frozen pizza, just one of hundreds of items at Gluten Free Trading Co. in Milwaukee. Schools, restaurants and anyone else serving food are more vulnerable to legal threats over food sensitivities after the Justice Department determined that severe food allergies can be classified as disabilities under federal law. People who suffer from celiac disease don't absorb nutrients well and can get sick from the gluten found in wheat, rye and barley. Celiac is a diagnosed illness that is more severe than gluten sensitivity, which some people self-diagnose. Millions of people are buying gluten free foods because they say they make them feel better, even if they don’t have a wheat allergy. (AP Photo/M.L. Johnson, File)(Credit: AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — People with severe food allergies have a new tool in their effort to find menus that fit their diet: federal disabilities law. And that could leave schools, restaurants and anyone else that serves food more vulnerable to legal challenges over food sensitivities.

A settlement stemming from a lack of gluten-free foods for students at a Massachusetts university could serve as a precedent for people with other allergies or conditions, including peanut sensitivities or diabetes.

Institutions and businesses subject to the Americans With Disabilities Act could be open to lawsuits if they fail to honor requests for accommodations by people with food allergies.

The settlement, reached last month but drawing little attention, will require Lesley University to serve gluten-free foods and make other accommodations for students who have celiac disease.

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