McLean, Va. (Oct. 30, 2013) – The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) published new school food allergy guidelines on Wednesday that seek to protect the physical and emotional health of students with food allergies by providing practical information and strategies for schools while reinforcing federal laws and regulations. Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) collaborated along with other groups on the development of the guidelines, the first document of its kind.
The “Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care and Education Programs,” are intended to support the implementation of school food allergy management policies in schools and early childhood programs, and guide improvements to existing practices.
“We strive to ensure that students with food allergies are both safe and included at school,” said John L. Lehr, chief executive officer of FARE. “We strongly encourage schools to adopt these new guidelines, or to examine their existing plans to make improvements in line with the CDC’s new recommendations. The guidelines will greatly improve the way we care for students with food allergies by having uniform procedures in place.”
Implementing these guidelines may help schools reduce allergic reactions, improve response to life-threatening reactions and ensure current policies are in line with laws that protect children with serious health issues. Among the new guidelines’ recommendations:
- avoiding the use of identified food allergens in class projects, parties, holidays and celebrations, arts, crafts, science experiments, cooking, snacks or rewards;
- training transportation staff on how to respond to food allergy emergencies;
- having rapid access to epinephrine auto-injectors in case of anaphylaxis, and training staff on how to use an epinephrine auto-injector;
- ensuring that children with food allergies are not excluded from field trips, events or extracurricular activities, as well as physical education or recess activities;
- using nonfood incentives for prizes, gifts and awards; and
- designating allergen-safe zones, such as an individual classroom or eating area in the cafeteria, or designating food-free zones, such as a library, classroom, or buses.
“These guidelines assist schools and early care centers in shifting their policies and practices from response to prevention and preparedness, making these settings safer for children with food allergies.” said CDC Division of Population Health Director Wayne Giles, M.D., M.S. “CDC greatly appreciates the collaborative process that engaged multiple federal agencies and national non-government organizations in the development of these guidelines.”
These guidelines are critical to protect the nearly 6 million children in the U.S. with food allergies. More than 15 percent of children with food allergies have had a reaction at school, and approximately 25 percent of epinephrine administrations in the school setting involved an individual whose allergy was previously undiagnosed.
As the guidelines state, “Some children with food allergies face health challenges that can affect their ability to learn and their social and emotional development – and even pose a daily threat to their ability to live productive lives. These guidelines call for strong partnerships among families, medical providers, and staff in schools and early care and education programs to help children overcome the challenges that come from having a food allergy. These guidelines also call for strong leadership in schools and early care and education programs, comprehensive plans for protecting children with food allergies, and effective responses to food allergy emergencies.”
The guidelines were created as the result of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act (included under the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act), which was championed by FARE and signed into law on Jan. 4, 2011. The law required the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop and make available to schools a voluntary policy to manage the risk of food allergy and anaphylaxis in schools. FARE, the National Association of School Nurses and other groups collaborated with the CDC on the development of these guidelines.
The guidelines may be downloaded at www.foodallergy.org/cdc.