Talking Allergies

Frustration alert: school events and poor policies
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Author:  renie [ Wed Jan 10, 2018 9:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Frustration alert: school events and poor policies

Hey Everyone
Been ages since I was here (initially was locked out with log in issues)
Our school board (YRDSB) has a huge focus on inclusion - totally a GOOD thing
I continue to be irritated with events that negatively impact kids with allergies (and for the record also those events that impact kids from full participation due to other issues). I'd think that such limitations would be part of the process of reviewing and approving special events at the school

Today I have a consent letter for my son for a French baking event run by Chef in the School -
Sounds great!
consent options include:
- My child has permission to participate in this activity
- My child has dietary restrictions: (small line that you can write concerns)
AND a disclaimer stating: In the case of severe allergies, a parent or some other responsible adult must attend the session to assume responsibility for the student's safe participation
OK I admit that I like that I CAN attend, but on the inclusion basis, well, I have more than one concern (and celebrate that if my attendance is what is required, I am blessed enough to make something work - not everyone could)

Now and here comes the rant

The letter says the event will be nut-free (ok, I am guessing a lot of folks here know peanuts are a legume)

The company that is making a good profit providing the service? experience? to schools has this on their FAQ page:

What is your food allergy policy?

Food accomodations: Dairy free, Gluten free, Vegan, Egg free, Vegetarian, Gelatin free
Food allergies: Chefs will do their due diligence to make all the necessary accommodations, however cannot guarantee cross contamination. Final consent is the responsibility of the student’s family and school.

I've contacted the company to learn more (do they actually understand the risk with the products that they use - are they aware May Contain labelling is not a legal requirement?) and advised the school I need more information before I can provide consent

(I CERTAINLY don't want a guarantee of cross-contact. And I WON'T assume trust if they can't invest time to develop a meaningful FAQ statement)

Am I over-reacting?

Author:  renie [ Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustration alert: school events and poor policies

Update: I was pleasantly surprised that the company was very responsive to my email inquiry and put me in touch with one of the co-owners. She will provide me the information I need to assess the safety for my son. I have to give credit where credit is due and I appreciate the partnership.

Author:  spacecanada [ Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustration alert: school events and poor policies

I hope it works out, Renie -- though I am never a fan of food activities at school regardless.

It really is frustrating at the vagueness of allergy policies and how they impact us. People think they're doing the right thing but often it only makes more questions and more work. I'm glad this company was better informed than it first appeared.

Author:  Becky [ Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustration alert: school events and poor policies

It's 'funny' how events aiming to be inclusive end up excluding some (and often the kids with food allergies). They are not taken seriously enough by schools, too much responsibility is placed on the shoulders of the child - even from a young age. You would NEVER EVER be able to exclude a child for physical limitations, but it's fine for kids who are anaphylactic to certain foods. it makes me so angry. :verymad

I'm glad the company has been good to deal with.

Author:  Julie [ Sun Jan 14, 2018 9:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustration alert: school events and poor policies

Hey Everyone,

I feel your pain! Our son is now in grade 10, and the food events continue! Honestly, though, I've learned that the food preparedness and safety will never be enough for us, so we always need to provide his food. I groan every time I hear there is another event, and it pretty much always requires me "sneaking in" to bring his food. Now that he's in grade 10, totally not cool!! Fortunately, my work allows for me to get away to show up (briefly, with food in hand) for these occasional events. I'm astounded these events are still going on in high school. I guess with our daughter (who is now in first year university) I simply didn't notice or was unaware of all the food events that take place.

So, we don't take a chance. Our son has too many allergies, and it's not worth the risk. Fortunately, our son is pretty easy going about the whole thing, and as long as he has food he likes, he's okay. I thought in high school, we wouldn't have to worry about the food events anymore... WRONG!

Hope everyone finds there own personal working solution around the food events and school!

Author:  renie [ Thu Jan 18, 2018 8:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustration alert: school events and poor policies

Thanks for the feedback everyone
Ironically it is reminding me of the sad thread on the boy dying in hospital and trust in institutions

I continue to find this company receptive to feedback and they are partnering in safety.

That said (and regarding trust in institutions)
- The school board YRDSB obviously has allergen policies and principals adapt for their schools (ours, like many, hold MANY food events and fund raisers. sigh.)
- Providers of programs coming into the school are vetted/screened and have to meet some standard (I don't know the details)

My investigation on the products so far:
- 1 product, I am still waiting on an update as the allergen chart was not available (PC brand). I am expecting a call by tomorrow

- 1 product had no allergen chart. I did get a timely response back. I was told there was no risk as the facility is treenut free (good, although I strongly dislike any "free" statement as I find it to be a guarantee that leads to false confidence). I reminded that peanut was also an allergen I had inquired about. I was told it's fine - no treenuts! After the usual "peanuts are a legume" conversation, I did get a return call confirming also peanut "free" facility (Walmart)

- 1 product has excellent information however their labelling policy is such that our family would have to call them for every product as they inconsistently use May Contain labelling. The product is considered Free of Peanuts and Treenuts BUT at risk due to OTHER NUTS. I was pleased that they had information on file to address my questions. Nuts are not processed on the same line however there are Pistachios, Almonds and Walnuts in the facility, just not processed on the same line at this time. (Compliments brand)

We all have our own thresholds, risk mitigations and continue to refine based on our experiences.
Thank you @Julie for sharing yours - we experience the same with our daughter in high school (although she has had the odd rare case of "food from outside" which frankly scares me but she is always part of the discussion of potential risk and always has the option of us providing food). Our daughter is also practical and easy going about it - realistically, they don't have a choice but better that they own it and participate.

I'll be honest - I don't mind the hours going into this to assess how my son will or won't participate. I am grateful that I can do this - especially when customer service hours for some companies are 9-4 EST with of course high waits during lunch hour.

I would under other circumstances be a mom that based on reading labels might offer an allergic child false confidence that what I am serving them is fine. It would be an honest mistake. (and I would never forgive myself)

I don't expect people who don't live with anaphylaxis to get it.

I do want institutions (like schools and hospitals) and food providers (like those contracted by hospitals) understanding what is involved in assessing risk and to avoid offering false confidence.

I understand the 'down side' is aggressive 'May Contain' labelling as a litigation risk. I know this annoys many people. Still, it would improve transparency.
Yes it would increase call volumes. Those who rely on labelling without knowing that it can vary widely might feel product-restricted and have to make calls to assess the risk. Or have to find another product. And people like me would still be calling to do the same.

What we wouldn't have is a school holding an event, marketed as safe, using the services of a company that just didn't know this side of anaphylaxis.

I guess at the end of this experience, I am optimistic that one company providing a food based service in schools is hopefully learning.
Again they seem receptive, for which I am very grateful.

@Becky you are so right! Our school has cancelled other plans (like a school community vegetable garden) due to one child with an accessibility issue. And kids have had to evacuate classrooms due to behaviour issues with property destruction. You have sent my mind spinning off in new directions!!! I guess it comes down to anaphylaxis not being a "visible" disability or requiring obvious daily support as do children with behaviour, autism or other challenges.... that said, they did go to the theatre recently for Wonder and I have no idea what accomodations if any were made for sensory students

Thanks again for your feedback

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