Two Chartwells executives appeared before the Holmdel Board of Education at a public meeting Wednesday night to explain how the sale of a non-approved product -- the anti-energy drink "Marley's Mellow Mood" came to be sold in Holmdel's middle and high school cafeterias.
According to Regional Vice President of Chartwells Nancy Quinn, the company's district manager, Jim Gillespie, made a monthly visit to Holmdel around Oct. 16 or 17th and had learned the onsite food manager had planned to sell Marley's Mellow Mood in the schools. The herbal drink is not approved to be sold in any of Chartwells' locations.
"After being told not to sell the product, the director proceeded with sales at the high school. And on Friday the 30th, the product was sold at the middle school," said Quinn.
"Several students at the middle school had an adverse reaction to the beverage and were ill. Both the administration and ourselves reacted immediately and removed all the product being sold."
"On Monday Dec. 3 we also removed the school dining director and replaced her with a new food service director. Our district manager Jim [Gillespie], the food service director and myself have already reviewed Holmdel's already established product approval process, with the district, and we understand that and we will strictly abide by that. We've also implemented an order review process to ensure that this mistake doesn't happen again," she said.
She added that Chartwells will be communicating directly with parents and guardians who had reactions to drinking the product.
According to board member Dennis Pavlik, seven students fell ill. One parent who spoke out at the meeting said his son was hospitalized with an I.V., and two others said their children experienced lethargy throughout the weekend.
In an answer to questions from the board about how long the drink was available, Quinn said the product was first delivered at the end of October. It was not sold in any other school district.
She said all future orders will be submitted through the District Manager for any vendors who are not already established in the Chartwells ordering system.
There is no criminal investigation at this time, said Quinn, and she could not say what the food service manager's motivation to independently order and sell the drink directly against her district manager's orders.
Superintendent Barbara Duncan said that the nutritional information on the website indicates it is not for sale for children. But there was no such label on the actual can for sale in Holmdel. According to Duncan, Marley company representatives said that in the original production that warning was not on the can. Later productions had that warning.
The superintendent said the school nurse made phone calls to parents on Friday and Sunday to check on the childrens' health and all students were back in class on Tuesday.
To comments from the public about a lack of communication about what was known, or not know, about the Marley's investigation as it unfolded in the last month, Duncan said she will be "more mindful" about reaching out to parents with updates. She also invited parents to contact her directly with questions.