All schools in the United States have comprehensive guidelines to look to when developing policies to manage food allergies.
The “Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care and Education Programs,” were released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2013. The document spells out in detail steps that should be taken in schools and early care and education programs to protect food-allergic students.
It addresses everything and everyone, from the school board level down to materials used in class projects. Detailed instructions, almost like manuals, are provided for many roles within the school community, such as superintendents, school administrators, school nurses and doctors, teachers, food service staff and bus drivers.
Specific recommendations include:
• designating allergy-friendly seating arrangements for eating times.
• avoiding using foods that students are allergic to in class projects, parties, experiments or as rewards.
• having epinephrine auto-injectors accessible and training staff to use them.
• ensuring field trips are safe for students with allergies.
• not excluding kids from field trips, physical education or recess because of food allergies.
• providing families of students with allergies food service menus in advance.
• encouraging children to wash hands before and after eating.
• avoiding ordering food from restaurants because allergens may not be easily identified.
• training school bus employees on how to respond to food allergy emergencies.
The CDC developed the guidelines in response to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act (FAAMA), which was passed in early 2011 as part of the larger Food Safety Modernization Act. It required the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop voluntary guidelines to address the risk of allergy and anaphylaxis in schools.
Creating the guidelines involved lengthy consultation with interested groups, including Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), the National Association of School Nurses, the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America and others. FARE has called the guidelines “a milestone” for those affected by food allergy.
The food allergy community is urged to let their school districts know that the guidelines are now available online. Download the full CDC guidelines are here; see the final pages for charts on reducing the risks of exposure to allergens in school and daycare centers.