School Lunch Allergen Safety
As children head back to the classroom, Health Canada is reminding parents of the importance of allergy awareness when packing lunches for their children. Severe allergic reactions can occur quickly and without warning, and some foods, like peanuts, can be life-threatening to allergic children.
As many as 1.2 million Canadians may be affected by life-threatening allergies and these numbers are increasing, especially among children. Foods account for most children's allergies, with peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, soy, fish and seafood, wheat, eggs and milk being the most common food allergens.
When someone ingests even a tiny amount of an allergen, the symptoms of a reaction may develop quickly and can become very serious. The most dangerous symptoms include breathing difficulties, a drop in blood pressure or shock, which may result in loss of consciousness and even death.
Because of this, many elementary schools are now restricting certain foods from student's lunches. Parents are encouraged to follow school policies, even if their child is not allergic. To find out which foods, if any, are restricted in their children's schools, parents should contact the school directly.
There is no cure for food allergies. The only option is complete avoidance of the particular allergen. This is why it is important that allergic children not be exposed to allergens that regularly cause extreme and sometimes fatal reactions.
Health Canada has a number of food allergy factsheets which provide information on the nine priority food allergens. An It's Your Health article is also available that provides additional information on severe allergic reactions.