Hidden allergens in the classroom

John Scott points out some hidden allergens in the classroom.

Parents of children with food allergies will have taken steps to ensure that meal times at school remain as safe as possible, but what about the risks during lessons, outdoor activities and on the journey to and from school?

The US Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) has issued a reminder to parents to consider all aspects of school life, and recommends working with the school to draw up a comprehensive plan to protect their child in all circumstances during the school day, taking nothing for granted.

Teachers and other educational carers need to remain constantly vigilant because the threat from food allergens can lurk in some surprising places:
• jars used to store pencils etc may carry peanut traces
• play-dough may contain peanut traces or wheat
• bird-feeders are sometimes made using peanut butter
• papier mache may contain wheat
• tempera paint may incorporate egg as a thickener
• field trips and environmental activities can involve exposure to tree nuts

FAAN suggests that parents arrange to examine classrooms that their children will work in, including storerooms where equipment is kept, and that they ask to see the school's art and science equipment cupboards in order to check the contents of these.

Whether or not any suspect item or ingredient is found, merely making a request to carry out these checks will serve to heighten teachers' awareness of the ubiquity of allergens and thereby help to improve the safety of any allergic child in their care.

Unless made aware of the risks involved, teachers may also use food items as incentives to improve pupil performance, so it is also worth suggesting that non-food rewards, such as stickers, certificates or privileges, should be used instead.

More information and advice from www.foodallergy.org

First published in 2007

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