In the Dog House: Pennsylvania School Gave Fourth Graders Dog Treats At Recess

220px-Dog-biscuitI remember some bad school lunches but this is ridiculous. Parents in New Hanover, Pa., are outraged over the news that a recess aide at New Hanover Upper Frederick Elementary School served dog treats to the grade school students. The aide actually joked with the kids that the snacks were in fact dog treats and then told them he or she was kidding and that they were really snacks. The school says that the kids will be just fine since the treats would only harm those with allegories, though we have been reading how Chinese-made treats are being avoided by pet owners due to illnesses around the country being reported by pet owners. Some 75 fourth grade students received the dog treats. Some ate three or more of the “cookies” though it is not clear were told not to beg and to yield to commands.

When I read this story, I was fascinated by the legal recourse for parents if they or the kids complained about the trauma associated with eating dog food or treats. Could this make the minimal standard for a negligent infliction of emotional distress or even simply negligence? Without physical sickness, it would be only psychological harm which a court could find de minimis.

One student stated “I thought, wow, did I really eat dog treats? I was upset that our lunch aide, that we’re supposed to trust, who is supposed to take care of us, would do that to us.” That type of injury is not likely to be enough to sustain a legal claim, but would make for an interesting briefing. More importantly, parents could view litigation as the only way to get a clear understanding of what happened in this case.

It depends on the pet food, but just referring to categories like “meat” can be deceiving according to some sites: “However, about 50% of every food animal does not get used in human foods. Whatever remains of the carcass — heads, feet, bones, blood, intestines, lungs, spleens, livers, ligaments, fat trimmings, unborn babies, and other parts not generally consumed by humans — is used in pet food, animal feed, fertilizer, industrial lubricants, soap, rubber, and other products. These “other parts” are known as “by-products.” Manufacturers are not required to list any additives present in any given ingredient if it comprises 5% or less of the product excluding water and salt.

If families read about how dry treats are actually made, they will be even less happy because it is not just the uncertainty over the ingredients but the cooking process:

The dough is fed into the screws of an extruder. It is subjected to steam and high pressure as it is pushed through dies that determine the shape of the final product, much like the nozzles used in cake decorating. As the hot, pressurized dough exits the extruder, it is cut by a set of rapidly whirling knives into tiny pieces. As the dough reaches normal air pressure, it expands or “puffs” into its final shape. The food is allowed to dry, and then is usually sprayed with fat, digests, or other compounds to make it more palatable. When it is cooled, it can be bagged.

Although the cooking process kills bacteria in the ingredients, the final product can pick up more bacteria during the subsequent drying, coating, and packaging process. Some experts warn that getting dry food wet can allow the bacteria on the surface to multiply and make pets sick. Do not mix dry food with water, milk, canned food, or other liquids.

The school website discusses how the teachers have been implementing a new Healthy Bodies,Healthy Minds program. Some parents are likely to view that effort as, at best, half successful.

[The treat shown is simply a public domain image and not necessarily the treat given to the students or the treat involved in any of these studies]

24 thoughts on “In the Dog House: Pennsylvania School Gave Fourth Graders Dog Treats At Recess

  1. For the love of godd, what in the H— is a ‘lunch aide’? When I was a grade school kid, (granted that was several *ahem* years ago) we were evidently perfectly able to eat our lunch without ‘lunch aides’.

  2. Is the lunch aide part of the union? I hope not, because she’d better get fired fast enough to break the sound barrier.

    Dog treats are not meant for human consumption. As such, they are subject to different regulations. Some treats can be made with freeze dried raw meat, for example, or offal. The limits for allowable contamination are different. Not only could the kids get a food borne illness, they could get parasites from the raw meat, or as Prof Turley pointed out, they could be contaminated with melamine, cadmium, or any other of the lovely things coming out of China.

    This was a health hazard and emotional abuse. I don’t blame the school, if this was the first time, but she had better get fired ASAP.

  3. Kraaken – no kidding. We expected more out of kids in the past, they had more independence, more chances for creativity.

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