A number of students at the William R. Satz School in Holmdel, N.J. fell ill on Friday and the culprit has been identified as "Marley's Mellow Mood," a relaxation beverage sold by school vendor Chartwells Dining Services. In separate statements released today, officials with both Chartwells and drink manufacturer Marley Beverage Company said the product shouldn't have been available at the middle school in the first place.
"Parents were notified and the substance was immediately removed from sale in the High School and Satz," superintendent Barbara Duncan said in a statement. "We called for an immediate and thorough investigation by Chartwells. Chartwells cooperated with our request, reacted quickly and identified the issues at hand. We were informed that Marley’s was a new product that did not go through the approval process required for all new products."
The drink, which on its website bills itself as "the anti-Red Bull," boasts a powerful herbal cocktail that includes Valerian root, which has been linked to drowsiness and in high doses can cause dizziness. Its packaging includes a disclaimer that the drink is not intended for children, according to Marley Beverage.
Chartwells in a statement laid the lion's share of the blame on an on-site manager, who they said purchased the drinks without the company's permission. "Marley’s Mellow Mood Drinks and Teas are an unauthorized purchase of a beverage product not approved for sale in schools managed by Chartwells," Mid-Atlantic Vice President Nancy Quinn said in a statement. "The product in question has been removed from schools completely and will not be available. The on-site manager has been removed pending our further investigation."
Marley Beverage President and CEO Kevin McClafferty in a statement stressed that Chartwells is not an authorized vendor of the product. "Our company’s policy is not to sell Marley’s Mellow Mood into schools and we have no intention of ever doing so," he said. "We have launched our own internal investigation into this incident and will be forthcoming with those results."
Chartwells has also launched an investigation and will report its findings to the school district, according to Quinn.