School Can be an Allergy Minefield

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Ontario's Bill 3 became law on January 1, 2006. This law requires all schools to have allergy plans in place which may include the banning of specific foods. Nonuttin' Granola Bars were created by the mother of a nut allergic child and may help many parents easily send an allergen friendly snack to school.

Ontario’s Bill 3, which came into effect on January 1, 2006, makes Ontario school boards accountable for having an allergy plan in place in all schools. This plan may include the banning of certain foods such as peanuts and nuts, making it a challenge to send a child to school with snacks or lunch. Alana Elliott, president of Nonuttin’ Foods Inc., parent of an allergic child, and a former elementary teacher understands this challenge all too well.

It can be very difficult for the teacher to check all foods for certain allergens. “At every school I taught at, children went outside with their snacks for recess, making it impractical to check every product. And what about the home-made treats?” Elliott wonders.

When her youngest child was diagnosed with a life-threatening allergy to peanuts, she learned firsthand how important label reading was. Elliott was nervous when her daughter began school. This was compounded by the fact that many snacks she observed in her child’s nut free school contained peanuts, nuts or traces of these. While Elliott taught her child to not accept any food from other people, the cross contamination issue with nut laden foods was frightening.

The desire to help parents in a similar situation led Elliott to resign from teaching and begin Nonuttin’ Foods Inc. when her family moved to Vancouver Island in 2002. Since granola bars were one of the biggest offenders to the no nut policy, she developed recipes for granola bars that eliminated 8 out of 10 of the top food allergens. Health was also important so she made the bars free of trans fats and animal by-products, getting Kosher certification in April of 2005.

“What this means is that, as a parent, I know that I can send granola bars to school that are safe for most allergic children. From the teacher’s perspective, they don’t have to spend their time reading labels and worrying about their students’ health,” adds Elliott.

It will remain to be seen what the impact of Bill 3 will be on both Ontario schools and the rest of the provinces and states that are watching with interest. Elliott considers the move a positive one, “A plan in place for severely allergic children can only be a good thing. Whether that allergy is to food or insect stings, the adults who care for kids need to know how to react should a life-threatening incident ever arise.”

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Alana Elliott