Cautionary measures: Allergen-sensitive environments such as My Zone at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute offer easy access to fresh and frozen meals and grocery items. In the event of a severe allergic reaction, a delay of even a few minutes in getting an epinephrine injection can make a scary situation deadly.
The tragedy “likely could have been avoided,” says Christopher Weiss, VP of advocacy and government relations at FAAN, The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. On the table at some institutions is having epinephrine—often called an EpiPen, a brand-name self-injectable epinephrine—on hand for emergencies in which someone with allergies isn’t carrying an EpiPen, another dose is needed before emergency personnel can arrive, or someone without known allergies experiences anaphalaxis. Weiss says other potential obstacles include staff training, EpiPen costs, and expiration date monitoring—since devices generally need to be replaced annually.
Sodexo offers My Zone, a separate area within the dining hall to accommodate special dietary needs, and Simple Servings, which avoids seven of the “Big 8” allergens, says spokesperson Monica Zimmer. UPDATE: The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced that an autopsy determined Tyler Cody Davis had in fact died from an allergic reaction.
That appears to be what happened to Kennesaw State University (Ga.) student Tyler Cody Davis, who, on August 18, ate at the campus dining hall, later returned there in distress to seek emergency assistance, and not long after was pronounced dead at a local hospital, according to a KSU statement.


Young adults are at the highest risk group of a fatal allergic reaction—“largely because they exhibit risky behavior, such as leaving home without their epinephrine, or eating foods that they are not completely sure about,” he says.
As many as 15 million Americans, including about 6 million children, have food allergies, according to FAAN, and many campus leaders are conscious of those numbers.
KSU is exploring that idea, although a risk of the approach could be that students might become lax about equipping themselves with an EpiPen at all times. The college has a “very thorough allergy process” for affected students involving a meeting with the director of health services and a requirement to always carry an EpiPen. Parkhurst Dining Services worked with FAAN and Walt Disney World (known as being “allergy aware” in the food allergy community) on its allergy program. He was carrying an EpiPen and tried to use it, but the needle bent and he was unable to inject the medicine in time. While the official cause of death is under investigation, published reports and reader comments indicate that Davis had a milk allergy and was known to be cautious of what he ate. Weiss advises ongoing awareness efforts and training among food service staff, which will allow them to accurately convey information to students and help prevent cross-contact in kitchen prep areas.


In the dining hall, everyone from line staff and servers to the head chef is trained to know their own responsibilities when a customer notifies them of an allergy. Bill Moore, director of safety and security at Parkhurst’s parent organization, Eat’n Park Hospitality Group, shares that a collaboration with food safety company San Jamar resulted in a purple cutting board and color-coded kitchen utensils set used only for guests with allergy concerns.
With meal plans being an on-campus student requirement, “we felt it was important to have options for everyone,” Egan says. Holy Cross is one of 63 institutions in the FAAN College Network, which helps prospective students learn more about schools’ allergy policies.



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