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Should "may contain" be allowed in schools?
Poll ended at Tue May 23, 2006 4:56 pm
Yes 67%  67%  [ 10 ]
No 27%  27%  [ 4 ]
Unsure 7%  7%  [ 1 ]
Total votes : 15
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 Post subject: "May Contain"
PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 4:56 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 20, 2006 3:03 pm
Posts: 105
Location: Coquitlam
Hi,

The school my children attend wants to ban everything that states "may contain" I think that it is great!
but
I also think if they do implement this rule the parents of non allergic children will rebel and possibly put the allergic children at further risk.

I personally think that as long as the products do not contain any peanuts/nuts and only states "may contain" That it is fine to bring to school. Just do not feed to the allergic students and wash hands face etc. immediately after lunch. (which is done anyways)

What do you think?


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 9:08 pm 
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Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2005 11:21 am
Posts: 688
Location: Cobourg, ON
In an ideal world it would be wonderful to ban may contains but... The reality is that the may contain label is not even mandatory for food manufacturers. In the new document, Anaphylaxis In Schools and Other Settings, the Canadian allergists state that they feel that it is safe for allergic children to be in the presence of other children eating may contains. They add that precautionary measures such as hand washing and table washing should be used.

It sounds like the administration is trying to make the school 100% safe in their mind which we know is not possible. If it is not really a safety issue, I just think why tick off the non allergic community by asking for unnecessary measures. I think we have to be reasonable. If not we lose our credibility and ability to ask for cooperation when it comes to bigger issues. Just my opinion.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 9:39 pm 
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Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2005 9:38 pm
Posts: 1643
Location: Toronto
I think it's unreasonable to expect people not living with allergies to remember to read every label every time.

I also think it's unreasonable to expect people living with a different allergy to eliminate trace amounts of a food that they are not allergic to.

(Just my own opinion.)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2006 12:02 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 1:25 pm
Posts: 323
Eliminating "may contain" is for the person eating it, not the one sitting next to him or her. We all know that the "may contain" is sometimes put there by companies "just for fun" (personal opinion), so why impose it on people that don't need it.

If you want people to follow the rules, make them easy and only ask for what is necessary... too much rules means that people will turn around and end up following none of them!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2006 5:55 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 11:17 pm
Posts: 6492
Location: Ottawa
I would love to say yes, that we should eliminate all foods that might possibly put our children at risk. I am all for keeping them safe.
Unfortunately the reality is that a cream cheese and jam sandwich for example, might contain peanuts. Not because of a manufacturing contamination but because of cross contamination at the kitchen. We need to assume that alll foods prepared out side of our own kitchen is suspect. It is simply not realistic to think that no allergen will sneak into the classroom.
I do believe that we need to do everything in our power to ensure that our children do not have a reaction. Foods that are messy, sloppy or easily transfered by some other method ( in by air?) need to be seriously considered as potential for reaction and these need to possibly be banned.
I have no problem with someone drinking from a carton of milk if they are supervised (I assume that the adult would deal with spills) and wash their hands afterwards. I do have a problem with the entire school eating pizza with minimal supervision as the cheese is greasy and I don't believe ever child will wash his/her hands.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 8:32 am 
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Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 6:48 pm
Posts: 614
Location: Ontario, Canada / Cambridge, UK
I'm going to be the devil's advocate here but here is my opinion:

If the school is going to ban nuts and peanuts, they should also not allow any products labelled "may contain..." I think the "may contain" labelling is often disregarded and not taken seriously... people don't understand that the product could very well have traces of nuts/peanuts. If the school allows "may contains", it is not helping to educate people about the dangers of food allergies. If we are going to educate people, we need to send a consistent message... and that is if a product has a "may contain" warning, it means the food is not fit for consumption for those who have peanut/nut allergies. While I agree that it is acceptable for the other children in the class to eat the product (as long as the allergic child doesn't eat it), I firmly believe that the point here is "educating about allergies". If the school or the parents allow the "may contains", they may be propagating the message that the "may contain" labelling is not to be taken seriously... and those who have allergies or are parents of allergic children know how crucial labelling is. The danger here (and it seems that it is already happening) is that the "may contain" will come to mean nothing... and schools and parents of non-allergic children may think that it's OK to serve these foods because "chances are there are no nuts or peanuts" or "the product doesn't really have nuts and peanuts in it... the company is just protecting itself". This increases the chances of a peanut/nut-allergic child of being exposed to or ingesting the food.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 12:33 pm 
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Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2005 9:38 pm
Posts: 1643
Location: Toronto
Storm wrote:
if a product has a "may contain" warning, it means the food is not fit for consumption for those who have peanut/nut allergies.


That's just it though. It's not fit for consumption for those with the allergy. My son attends a school of over 300 children. I know there is one with a dairy allergy, and there used to be one with a fish allergy. It's completely unreasonable (in my opinion) to expect those children to also follow a complete peanut-free diet at school. Unreasonable and unfair.

And what about the box of cookies made by some company that doesn't put warnings on their boxes. If you insist on banning may contains - you also have to ban them. (consistency) But, how do you get that message to the 300 parents?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 1:34 pm 
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Joined: Sat Apr 16, 2005 12:09 am
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AnnaMarie wrote:
And what about the box of cookies made by some company that doesn't put warnings on their boxes. If you insist on banning may contains - you also have to ban them. (consistency) But, how do you get that message to the 300 parents?

Exactly AnnaMarie. There is no possible way the school administration can police this. The first rule of thumb, I think, is teaching the allergic child not to eat what doesn't come from home. And for children that are too young to be left responsible for this -- the people directly caring for them (i.e. teachers, lunch helpers, etc.) must be acutely aware of this point. I think it's unrealistic to think or expect that parents of unallergic children are going to start calling companies asking questions about cross contamination when I know that there are a lot of parents with allergic children that don't even do this. And even if they do call - does that mean that they have to send a note to school for every item that is in their child's lunch? Is the teacher going to be responsible for reading these notes? Whose to say the parent isn't lying? I don't think you're telling people it's OK for an allergic child to consume "may contains" by allowing them -- you are just advising them they don't pose a huge risk when not ingested by the allergic child (which I don't feel is misinforming them). Hand washing and cleaning surfaces should reduce the risk even more. It's also my opinion that if you start imposing unrealistic rules that cannot even be monitored for compliance -- people feel overwhelmed and fatalistic about the whole process.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 1:38 pm 
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Part of the consistent message that we want to get out there is also "thinking about others" and I think that by putting a ban that includes "may contain" we do not think of others!!!!! If you think a ban on "may contain" is sending a good message, I would have to disagree and tell you right up front that pushing too much on your side means that 300 parents may decide to push back a lot harder!

If I am tired of living in a peanut free world and getting a speach every time I eat peanut butter and get told I am irresponsible to still eat peanuts in this day and age, many others out there may get a little too tired of the paranoia! My diet is limited enough as it is without banning peanuts and I'm not the only one out there. Imagine a school where there is a peanut-dairy-fish ban... including all "may contain" :shock: ... what will you send in the lunch box?????


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 7:15 pm 
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Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 6:48 pm
Posts: 614
Location: Ontario, Canada / Cambridge, UK
My son's school (in Ontario) has a ban on nuts and peanuts. In addition to that, each individual classroom has a ban on any other product that one or more students may be allergic to. There is a big note on each door listing the allergens that are not allowed in the classroom. The students also eat their lunches at their desk in their classrooms. In my son's classroom, there is a ban on the may contains. In the 4 years that my son has been attending this school, I have never heard any complaints from parents and there has been no resentment about having to read labels. No parent has ever said to me or the teachers that asking them to read labels is inconsiderate, rude or pushy. The teacher has been very good about communicating the issue to the parents and reminding them each time treats are to be brought in.

I believe that if this school has managed to become allergy friendly, other schools can do so as well. The way to do this is to have cooperation and understanding from the school and the teachers. This, in turn, educates the parents of non-allergic children. In fact, I would say that my whole community is allergy friendly... sports clubs, camps, libraries and even local restaurants. I feel this is because of awareness-raising in the schools.

My point is to teach parents to read labels. I am not asking them to step into a grey area and call up companies and check manufacturing processes or write notes to the teacher. This also raises the bigger issue of labelling for "may contains". There is definitely a grey area and I am advocating for the law to require labelling for "may contains", so we can send a consistent message. But for now, we can only depend on the more "responsible" companies to label for "may contains". Yes, there will be companies that do not label and their products may possibly contain traces of nuts and peanuts once the parent has checked with the company... this is also unacceptable to send to the classroom. We need to use good judgement but we have to start somewhere... and teaching others to check labels for "may contain" warnings is the first step.

It is difficult to ban foods across the board. Like I said, in my son's school there is a ban on nuts and peanuts... and other allergens in the specific classroom of the allergic child. So if there is a child allergic to fish, that classroom would ban all fish and all "may contains" relating to fish.

Why is it not thinking of others or being inconsiderate when asking parents to double check what foods they send to school? I think it's selfish and inconsiderate to give a child something to eat in the same classroom that another student is allergic to. We are talking about the health and safety of children. It should never be perceived as an inconvenience to think of others and read labels. This is not the message we should be sending... always apologizing and feeling guity about a child's allergy. Parents who get on the defensive need to be educated and made aware of the severity of allergies. You'd be surprised how 5 minutes of explanation can change their minds and help them see it in a different light.

Perhaps "may contains" do not pose a "huge" risk but it is a risk nonetheless, one that I don't feel my son should take. If the risk can be completely eliminated, then I'm all for it.

No school or community is perfect, I know this. There are still things that I don't think are safe for my son to do (like participating in bake sales). But I feel like my son's school has come a long way and I chose to write about my experience so that others may benefit from it. I know I'm not the only person to vote "no" in this poll. I'd be interested to hear what their point of view is.

I find it ironic that I get more hostility here (from people who live and deal with allergies) than with parents of non-allergic children at my son's school.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 10:49 pm 
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Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2005 11:21 am
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Location: Cobourg, ON
Quote:
Perhaps "may contains" do not pose a "huge" risk but it is a risk nonetheless, one that I don't feel my son should take. If the risk can be completely eliminated, then I'm all for it.


I hope that quote works - it is my first time using it.

The reality for anaphylactic children in schools and other places is that risk can never be eliminated. There are too many variables. It is wonderful that you live in a school community that is well educated about allergies and label savy. For many communities this would be very difficult. There are many families in my school community who struggle with poverty and literacy issues.

We need to educate others (teachers, parents and other children) to not feed or share food with our allergic children. This will keep our children safe when they are not with us (in addition to emergency training- epipen training). As our children grow up we need to teach them how to read labels and be adcovates for themselves. I would be afraid that the staff, students and my child might develop a false sense of security in a school that bans may contains.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 11:08 pm 
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Storm wrote:
....I have never heard any complaints from parents and there has been no resentment about having to read labels....

My understanding from Sil's original post was that she wanted to hear other's opinions about whether or not "may contains" should be allowed to be brought to school. I am not unsupportive of the expectation that parents read the labels of the food that they send to school with their children. They must -- if they are to be sure that the banned allergen is not an ingredient in the food item. I think it's great that parents in your community have been supportive of this and I hope to have the same experience.

Quote:
My point is to teach parents to read labels. I am not asking them to step into a grey area and call up companies and check manufacturing processes or write notes to the teacher.....

If we're talking about enforcing a ban on "may contains" -- then yes, you are expecting that parents will call companies to ask about cross contaminants. Because as you've already stated, there is no law currently requiring companies to state "may contains" on their labels. My point about sending in "notes to the teacher" was to illustrate the impracticality of such a ban. What's the point in not allowing foods that have a "may contain" declaration and unknowingly allowing others that have trace amounts that just haven't been declared? We're not talking about simply reading a label to see if an item contains a specific allergen or not. Do I think it's great that the parents at your child's school support your school's decision to ban "may contains"? Absolutely. Would I encourage all parents to not send in products with "may contains" of my child's allergen? Absolutely. But do I feel that there should be an official ban on them? In my opinion, no.

Quote:
Perhaps "may contains" do not pose a "huge" risk but it is a risk nonetheless, one that I don't feel my son should take. If the risk can be completely eliminated, then I'm all for it....

I don't feel that the risk can ever "be completely eliminated" and that the presumption that no one in your child's class has ever brought in a food that had trace amounts of his allergen (knowingly or unknowingly) is realistic (in my opinion). I think we as parents to allergic children always need to be aware of the potential for mishaps and accidental exposure. I think that relying on a ban of any nature provides a false sense of security.

It was not my intention to come across as being hostile or to attack anyone else's opinion. I believe that I was simply stating mine. I think it's possible for people to support and respect one another despite differing opnions.:)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 11:34 pm 
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Location: Oakville, Ontario
This is an interesting discussion... I think it's okay for us to disagree with one another, as long as we remain respectful... I think that is happening here, despite the fact that opinions are being strongly expressed.

For those in favour of banning "may contains" from the classroom, how do you feel a school would handle our situation: Our 4 yr old son with multiple food allergies (peanut, tree nuts, sesame seed (found in virtually all breads), egg, fish, shellfish, sunflower seed (found in a large number of crackers and other snack foods), mustard, cottonseed (alson found in many snack foods), poppy seed, pineapple and green peas) is currently attending preschool. The school asks that no food is sent to school containing peanut, tree nuts or sesame (but I know for a fact that "may contain" foods are present in the school. In fact, on Friday's, the school gives out "may contain peanut" gummie bears :shock: (our son has an alternate treat))... but I digress.

I think it would be impossible for a school to impose a restriction in a classroom based on our son's list of allergens. Can the parents on this board imagine what they would send in for their child if your child was in class with our son? And what if a child, in the same class, had a dairy or soy allergy - parents would be left wringing their hands in despair as to what they could send their child for lunch. Our son eats a TON of ham and cheese sandwichs (made on homemade bread as almost all breads made in bakeries "may contain" sesame and/or nuts). I don't see it as a feasible or a resonable arrangement in our son's classroom to have it completely free of all his allergens. In an ideal world, I wish it could be, but when dealing with multiple food allergies, it is much more complicated.

I definitely don't want to diminish anyone's difficulties, because we're all in this same boat together, but the growing numbers of people dealing with multiple food allergies mean that we cannot expect a complete ban on any allergen.

It's wonderful that the school if offering this level of support at this stage, but I don't think they could offer this if a child shows up at the school with multiple food allergies. And in attempt to be fair, the whole approach may fall apart because they could not offer the same level of support to this one child and the family.

We are working very hard with our son to teach him to care for himself, but he's definitely not there yet. Just today, when I took my kids for their swimming lessons, my son purposely but his mouth on a garbage can :shock: He seems to be nearly over putting his fingers in his mouth, but he will still put his mouth on things out in public - and this is a kid that received the Epipen for this specific reason last September.

Until our son can care for himself, we will be unable to allow him to stay at school for lunch. That is the simple truth, and there is no way around it. I am currently on leave from work ( I am a chemist) due to my son's health concerns (he has other health concerns beyond food allergies), so I will simply bring my son home for lunch until he stops putting his mouth on garbage cans :? [/b]


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 11:43 pm 
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Location: Cobourg, ON
Just to add to my recent post - this forum allows us to debate topics with people who have similiar knowledge of allergies. I can't do this with many other people. Please do not take differing opinions as being hostile to your own. Being challenged on my own opinion helps me to see all sides of an issue. I appreciate hearing different sides of the issue.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2006 4:14 am 
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Location: Ontario, Canada / Cambridge, UK
I agree. Relying solely on a ban can provide a false sense of security. However, I never stated that this should be the case. Education and awareness are key. Part of this is teaching parents to check labels. There is no subsitute for teaching your child to be responsible about his/her allergy. My son is only 8 and always speaks up for himself whenever he is unsure about a food and speaks of his allergy in a matter-of-fact way, to children and adults. It is simply a part of his life and something he must deal with on a daily basis. He has been doing this since he learned to talk. He even reads the labels of foods that are brought in for snacks (soccer, for example). The parents are asked to bring in peanut/nut-free treats and I always inquire what the snack is before it is served after a game. But my son always checks the labels, even if it is a product he has eaten many times before. Of course I don't rely solely on him but it is encouraging for me to see that he is doing this. He is not embarrassed about his allergy nor does he feel different and excluded. I am convinced that this is because of the supportive environment he grew up in and the school has a lot to do with it.

I understand that there may be literacy issues with some parents. This is where a supportive school/teacher comes in. Parents should always feel like they can approach the school/teacher to have questions answered.

Obviously, there are going to be exceptions.... there are children who have multiple allergies, which make it difficult to ban all the allergens from one classroom. Special considerations would have to be made for them if they were to eat at school.

I know that it is impossible to eliminate any risk... but I believe that the school is the only place (outside the home) where everything must be done to reduce risk as much as possible. Our children spend most of their day in school and we trust the school to educate them and keep them safe... so why not do everything in our power to make this happen?

Yes, it is difficult to ban all products that "may contain" the allergens (like breads, etc). But if the school requests that parents check the labels for "may contains", it will go a long way in helping them understand about cross-contamination, etc. Most people think that a food does not contain nuts or peanuts if that product is not visible.

Schools, parents and the children themselves (allergic and non-allergic) are all willing to be open-minded and cooperate. Some communities may have a longer way to go than others but I believe it is still possible.

I like to think that this forum is its own little community but at times, differing points of view can divide us and it is difficult for the "minority" to find support and this can be frustrating. But then again, when people do agree or empathize, it is a wonderful sense of support for them so I commend that. Perhaps the word "hostility" was too strong a word (although some posts were much more forceful than others). I apologize if I expressed frustration... I should remind myself that my primary reason for reading this board is to obtain and share information... not seek approval or support.


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