Putnamville inmate wins order for soy-, egg-free diet

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A federal court has ordered an Indiana prison’s food service company to comply with an inmate’s medical orders that he receive meals that are free of soy and egg ingredients due to claimed food allergies.

Judge James Sweeney of the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Indiana granted an injunction sought by Putnamville Correctional Facility inmate Earlie Berry Jr. The injunction requires prison food vendor Aramark Correctional Services to furnish Berry a diet free of egg and soy products for 90 days after the order issued Jan. 23.

Berry and Aramark agree in the litigation that a doctor ordered such a diet for him, but they dispute whether Berry has proven he actually has food allergies. The parties also dispute whether Indiana Department of Correction policy requires institutional approval of an inmate’s dietary needs after a doctor has so ordered. However, the doctor in this case could not conclusively say Berry had food allergies.

Berry, Sweeney wrote, “has presented evidence that he suffers due to the denial of a diet free of soy and egg products and risks serious harm after developing a vitamin B-12 deficiency. The defendants have not presented any evidence that they will suffer harm if a preliminary injunction is entered. Without such evidence, the balance of harms weighs in Mr. Berry’s favor.”

Sweeney also found that Berry has a likelihood of success on the merits. In his order, the judge wrote, “Aramark must ensure that Mr. Berry has a standing order to receive a diet free of soy and egg products for all meals while this injunction remains in effect. This order may only be rescinded if the defendants file a motion with the Court providing medical evidence that Mr. Berry does not require a diet free of soy and egg products.”

Berry is serving a 20-year sentence imposed in 2012 for Allen County burglary and theft convictions, according to the DOC.

The food allergy case is Berry v. Aramark, 1:18-cv-03651.

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