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Case Study: Special Dietary Needs – PKU

Published: Monday, 12th June 2017

Tomasz has a condition called Phenylketonuria – more commonly known as PKU – a rare, but potentially serious disorder.

Our bodies break down protein in foods like meat and fish into amino acids, which are the “building blocks” of protein. These amino acids are then used to make our own proteins. Any amino acids that aren’t needed are broken down further and removed from the body.
People with PKU can’t break down the amino acid phenylalanine, which then builds up in the blood and brain. This can lead to brain damage.

The main treatment for PKU is a low-protein diet that completely avoids high-protein foods – such as meat, eggs and dairy products – and controls the intake of many other foods, such as potatoes and cereals.

In addition, people with PKU must take an amino acid supplement to ensure they’re getting all of the nutrients required for normal growth and good health.

There are also a number of specially designed low-protein versions of popular products – such as flour, rice and pasta – specifically designed for people with PKU and related conditions to incorporate into their diets. Many of these are available on prescription.

All of this means that Tomasz can only eat measured and limited protein products every day and has been taking a packed lunch to school.

Mr Corkery, the Headteacher of St Teresa’s Roman Catholic Primary School, and Tomasz’s parents were really keen for him to enjoy a school meal with friends, and asked us if there was anything we could do. Michelle Dunkley, Cityserve Client Manager for St Teresa’s contacted the City Kitchen Development Team to see how we could help Tomasz join all the other children enjoying freshly prepared school food.

We joined forces with The Birmingham Children’s Hospital and dietician, Catherine Ashmore along with Tomasz and his Dad to find out more about the special diet and what foods he likes and dislikes; A risk assessment was put in place and we developed a 2 day protein free menu that can be prepared at school. With the help of Head Cook Helen and her Cityserve team at St Teresa’s we did a trial run of the menu, inviting Tomasz’s Family and Catherine to sample the different foods; Tomasz enjoyed them all and can now join his friends to enjoy a protein-free school dinner twice a week.

Well done to the City Kitchen Development Chefs, Michelle, Helen and her team for embracing the challenge and feedback from Catherine is that Tomasz is really enjoying his school lunches!