Food allergies are a growing public health issue in Canada. More than 50 per cent of Canadians know someone with a food allergy. While allergic individuals must take extra care with their condition, awareness and support of the community is essential in keeping people, especially children safe. Without proactive plans or treatment, anaphylaxis, the most severe form of an allergic reaction, can even cause death.
There are more than 160 foods that can cause allergic reaction in people with food allergies, but eight are the most common. These eight foods are the root of 90 per cent of all food reactions according to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. They are as follows: – See more at:
- Shellfish (e.g. crab, lobster, shrimp)
- Tree Nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans)
As these allergies can be life-threatening, many schools have responded by restricting them from their facilities. Most schools now have strict rules and policies about entry of lunches with items containing peanuts or tree nuts in an effort to be completely “nut free” as peanuts and tree nut allergies can be the most life-threatening. There are many unseen cross contaminations of the oils onto other objects.
Parents of anaphylactic children learn to read food labels to make sure they are safe, but for other parents who are new to packing lunches or snacks for a nut-free classroom, the learning curve can be huge. Even after school events such as planning for birthday parties or play dates with your child’s friends who may have anaphylaxis poses many questions and hesitations.
How do parents stay up-to-date with food allergies?
- Be proactive! – Contact your child’s school and ask for a list of foods to avoid. Most schools will be diligent to send this information home to you upon your child starting.
- If you child has a friend with anaphylaxis, contact their parents. They really are the ongoing experts as they diligently research products daily for their family and most often gain a sense of relief that a family of a peer their child plays with is looking out for them too.
- Read Food Labels – Many food companies are making their products with clearer labels outlining on the front label if their product is peanut free or “may contain nuts”
What substitutes can be sent with your child’s lunch? For parents who have children that love peanut butter and are picky about lunch alternatives, soy butters like “WOWbutter” are a completely safe alternative and taste like the original. Consider packing snacks that are inclusive of all children.
Check out Allergy Free Table, it’s advocating and educating with lots of recipes, blog posts and information for parents, teachers and chefs.