The beginning of the school year can be a very exciting time. Along with packing school supplies such as books and pencils, you'll also be packing school lunches for your children. While there are food safety tips that you should follow to avoid foodborne illness, it's also important to remember allergy awareness when you are packing lunches for school. If your children pack their own lunches, you should help them understand how to be food allergy aware.
As many as 1.2 million Canadians may be affected by life-threatening food allergies and these numbers are possibly increasing, especially among children. Currently, it is estimated that six per cent of children are affected by food allergies.
Although many foods can cause allergic reactions, Canada has identified a list of priority allergens that are responsible for the majority of allergic reactions to food in our country. These allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, soy, seafood (such as fish, crustaceans and shellfish), wheat, eggs, milk and sulphites.
Allergens can cause a reaction in your respiratory system, stomach and intestines, skin or cardiovascular system. The symptoms of allergic reactions vary in type and severity, from mild skin irritations and hives to breathing difficulties and loss of consciousness. Symptoms can also develop at different rates, sometimes getting worse very quickly. The most severe reaction, called anaphylaxis, can be fatal.
Food allergies are triggered when your body's immune system mistakenly identifies a food protein to be harmful. Exposure to even the smallest amounts of allergenic protein can cause a serious allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. This is why you need to be very careful when packing school lunches for your children.
Because of the potential seriousness of allergic reactions, many schools have a policy in place to restrict students from bringing certain items in their lunches. It's very important for you to follow the school's food allergen policy closely, even if your child is not allergic. The health and safety of other students depends on all parents and students following the school's food allergen policy. Here are some tips to help you:
The Government of Canada is committed to food safety.
Health Canada establishes regulations and standards relating to the safety and nutritional quality of foods sold in Canada. Through inspection and enforcement activities, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency verifies that food sold in Canada meets Health Canada's requirements.
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