Food allergies are on the rise in Canada. More than 2.5 million Canadians report having at least one food intolerance, including approximately 300,000 children under 18, according to Health Canada.
Peanuts, dairy, soy, and many other foods that can trigger severe allergic reactions, including anaphylactic shock, and even slight exposure has led to deaths of Canadian schoolchildren.
More schools are increasingly enacting rules to improve awareness and reduce the risks. Each province and territory now has its own guidelines and requirements for schools, although most are similar.
Ontario was the first province to enact an “anaphylaxis action plan.” Sabrina’s law, named for Sabrina Shannon, a teen who experienced a fatal anaphylactic reaction from dairy protein in her high school’s cafeteria, requires Ontario schools to establish policies for risk reduction and emergency response.
Principals are also required to prepare action plans for individual schools.
Also in the act:
- Schools must develop plans to share information on allergic reaction between parents, educators and students.
- Schools must have epinephrine shots, or EpiPens, available, as well as plans on how to use them.
- School board members could be subject to a criminal investigation for failing or refusing to administer an EpiPen.
Other provinces and territories have followed suit with similar legislation, calling for teacher training, risk reduction and information sharing. While most provinces have mandatory rules, some locales, including Alberta only have advisory policies with voluntary guidelines.
About Sabrina’s Law in Ontario: http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?locale=en&BillID=135&isCurrent=false&ParlSessionID=38:1
Info on food allergies, prevention and more from Health Canada: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/med/allerg-eng.php
Tips and information for students, parents and educators: http://www.anaphylaxis.ca/files/Anaphylaxis%20in%20Schools%203rd%20Edition.pdf