To people with allergies, the ability to identify their allergen quickly and conveniently is crucial. Nearly 5.6 million children under age 18 have a food allergy. On average, that is about two children per classroom. With this many children with food allergies, there are hundreds of students affected at Heritage alone, making it vital the school provides a labelling system.
More than 170 foods have been reported to cause allergic reactions––the major eight being milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish. To aid children with allergies, the CDC recommends that the staff in schools inform themselves on how to address a food allergy situation. Identifying symptoms of allergic reactions, preventing cross contamination in the cafeterias and washing hands frequently are a few examples the CDC recommends.
When trying to control food-related allergic reactions, schools tend to only focus on one or two allergens, forgetting the rest of the major 8. For example, in one New Jersey school, Marshall Elementary, all nuts have been banned due to not only student reactions, but also the principal’s. Although this is convenient for those who are allergic to nuts, there are still children who have other food related allergies. In the Marshall Elementary situation, the children who are not allergic to nuts but perhaps, dairy, could have a serious reaction if they are unaware it is in a food.
According to Mrs. Elise Blum, “[allergy labeling] is not something we have ever done but [will] look into and consider. If you talk to the kitchen staff, they can accommodate any allergy.” However, speaking with the kitchen staff is not always convenient.
Labeling the glass of the food display counters with the major eight allergens found in the foods served would improve students’ ability to avoid allergens. Lists of allergens could also be provided in the announcements and on menus.
Labeling food for the eight major allergens would provide clarity for students and ensure the safety of students and should be made standard practice.