Managing Food Allergies
With an estimated 1 in 4 people living with allergens in the UK, BD Together ensures that its school catering staff cater for children with food allergies and its staff are fully trained to be aware of food allergies and intolerances and associated risks. Working in partnership with the schools and parents to ensure children with allergens are still able to safely enjoy school meals.
Natasha's Law becomes law in October, which requires all pre-packaged foods to carry a full ingredient list. Labels are to list all ingredients with any of the 14 allergens contained within it detailed in bold. BD Together has been working with Saffron, our catering management team who provides nutritional content and allergen information breakdown, ensuring all our pre-packaged food is correctly labelled and meets the legal requirements.
Guidance for Parents
Sending your child to school with potential life-threatening food allergy can feel like an overwhelming task, so successful transitioning children into school requires forming a partnership bond with the parents, school staff and the catering team.
To assist we have put together a guidance to help parents become proactive in managing possible food allergies in the schools setting. The information below will aid an understanding of the critical steps in the transitioning.
Be well informed on your child’s allergy:
- The food he or she must avoid
- The signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction
- The ways your child might describe an allergic reaction
- Learn how schools generally manage pupils with allergens
- Find out as much as you can about the school’s approach to food allergy management
- Understand that the needs of the children with food allergies may differ according to age
Providing information about a child’s food allergy and medication to the school is critical. Check first to see if your child’s school has its own form.
The form should include:
- A complete list of foods to which your child is allergic
- The possible symptoms of your child’s allergic reaction
- The treatment that should be administered to your child, and under what circumstances
- Contact information for emergency medical services including parents
The school may also ask you to provide any information such as allergy test results and any medical history. It may ask you to complete additional forms relating to food allergies.
Depending on your child’s circumstances you may need to provide the school with additional medication such as antihistamine/and or asthma inhalers or epinephrine.
You may wish to meet with a representative from the catering team to discuss your child’s allergens. Please liaise with the school to arrange a meeting.
Discuss with your child’s teacher the role of food in the classroom to determine whether strategies can be implemented to help avoid exposure to food allergens and the risks associated with this.
There may be the following in place:
- The school has a “no food sharing” rule
- Ensuring hand washing after food handling and eating or the use of sanitising wipes is in place
- Ensuring all surfaces are sanitised after food is eaten
- Ingredient labels are provided for any classroom celebrations where food is used
In order to raise awareness of food allergies and to help reduce risks, some schools will send letters home to class parents, informing them that there is a child in the class with a food allergy. This helps promote support from parents and for the school team.
There is no reason that a child cannot take advantage of the school meals provided as long as the following precautions are adhered to:
- The allergens of the child are updated onto the school’s Parentpay system and are transferred onto the catering team’s Cypad system by the school office. A menu will then be produced that is specifically designed, omitting the said allergen.
- The menu is then shared with the parents so that they can then see what their child will be eating on a weekly basis. If the child has multiple allergens, a bespoke menu will be created for them in consultation with the catering supplier and the school.
For children with food allergies, prevention of allergic reactions involves making good choices, and recognising potentially dangerous situations. As your child grows older and matures, learning how to manage their food allergy is vitally important. Therefore, the parent’s role is essential in the following:
- Ensuring the child knows where their medication is located at the school and which of the staff can access the medication
- Raise awareness of food allergies amongst others (classmates, friends etc)
- Knowing which foods to avoid eating, especially where ingredients are unknown, such as home-baked goods
- Knowing to avoid sharing food with classmates or friends
- Washing of hand regularly to help prevent exposure to food allergens
- Identifying potential food allergens in food labelling
- Learning how to recognise their symptoms to an allergic reaction and to tell an adult immediately