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Food Allergy

Food allergies can be very serious, even life-threatening.  

Eating, touching or, in some cases, even smelling an allergen (usually a protein from the food in question) causes the person’s own antibodies to rush into action to attack the foreign substance.  This can cause swelling and irritation in certain parts of the body. 

Every allergic reaction can be serious; peanut, tree nut and shellfish allergies are among the most life-threatening allergies, often affecting breathing. The symptoms may become more severe each time the child is exposed to that particular allergen. 

Common Symptoms Of Food Allergy Include:

  • Swelling in the lips, throat, tongue or face
  • Hives or rash
  • Coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Stomach cramps, diarrhea and other intestinal symptoms

Protecting Students With Food Allergies When Planning a School Event

In Advance:

  • Ask the Principal what food allergies should be considered in planning the menu.  Some classrooms may be designated as “Peanut/Nut-free” or “other allergen free” and may require special consideration.  

Note:  All children want to participate in your event.  Choosing foods that are safe for everyone is safest and easiest.

  1. Foods that “may contain” a known allergen must never be served to anyone with that food allergy.  (it might!)
  2. Don't contaminate a “safe” food with a known allergen, by using utensils or cutting boards which have come in contact with the allergen.

On the Order Form for Students:

  • Be safe.  If you can’t be sure of the food’s ingredients, don’t offer it.
  • Consider limiting the number of choices offered to reduce the number of possible food allergens.  (Note:  This may also simplify the distribution to students.)
  • If serving a menu item with peanuts and/or tree nuts, say so, and offer an alternative.

For example:

  • Maple Walnut cookie (contains nuts, may contain peanuts)
  • Crispy Rice Square (peanut and nut free)

Tip: One PAC adds this note to the Fun Food Order Form:   “Our supplier can’t guarantee that this dessert [a plain cookie] is peanut/nut free, so we offer choice # 2 [a crispy rice cereal treat] as an alternative dessert.”

  • Include a PAC contact name and number for parents with questions about food and food allergies to call on the Order Form.
  • Provide a space on each order form for parent’s signature to be sure that they have reviewed the order for their child’s safety and are giving their permission for the event.

Placing the Order:

  • Work only with suppliers who can provide a complete list of food ingredients and understand what is necessary to prevent any inadvertent contamination in the food preparation process.
  • Provide your completed order in writing to the food provider, including a statement about which foods must be allergen-free.
  • Insist that the supplier contact you at least one day in advance for your approval, if any items or brands need to be substituted.

Distribution to Students:

  • Check your order carefully as soon as you receive it.  Ensure that the products ordered have been received. 
  • Designate one person to assemble and distribute foods for children with potentially life-threatening food allergies, so that you can be sure that each order is correct. 
  • Remind children not to trade food items.

If a student appears to be having any adverse reaction alert school staff immediately.
Emergency medical treatment may be necessary.

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