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Ask The Allergy Chef: Peanut Free School

Ask The Allergy Chef: My child isn’t allergic to peanuts, starting a peanut free school.

    Hi. My child isn’t allergic to peanuts, but is starting at a new school that’s peanut free. How do we go about that the right way? I know not to send peanut butter, but are there other things? Some labels have statements about shared facilities. Is that OK? Please help, I’m confused.

    Hey there. First, I want to thank you on behalf of all free-from parents and peanut allergic children. The fact that you reached out and want to help keep all the kids safe means so much.

    Let’s start with labels. Here in the US, “may contain” or “made in a shared facility with” or “made on shared equipment with” are all voluntary statements. “Made in a peanut free facility” is also a voluntary statement.

    Legally, a label only has to say if the allergen, in your case peanut, is in the product. “Contains: peanut” is the statement you would see, or the word peanut *should* be in bold. Whilst they’re supposed to call out major allergens, sometimes it doesn’t happen. I could see how from your perspective, this is SO confusing.

    I will add, peanut is a Major Allergen. You might hear the term “Top Allergens” or “Top 8/9 Free”. What that means is, peanuts belong to a group of foods that when combined, cause the most reported allergic reactions and trips to the ER.

    This article has a list of brands that sell packaged snacks that are all peanut free and made in a peanut free facility.

    This article covers how to exchange peanut butter in recipes and more. It could be helpful if you’ve never tried alternative spreads.

    I would also suggest that you contact your child’s teacher or head of school. Send this specific note:

    “Hi. I’m a bit confused on the peanut allergy situation in the classroom. I know I can’t send peanut butter, but some labels are confusing. Can you provide all parents with a list of classroom approved packaged snacks that are peanut free? Preferably from peanut free facilities so we don’t take any risks? Maybe this is something the parents of peanut free kids can help with.”

    They may or may not be willing to play ball, but hopefully they will. If nothing else, start with the article that I linked you to, and share that with other parents in the class who may be having the same struggle.

    In answer to the other part of your question, what you can send in is based on the needs of the peanut allergic child. Some kids can tolerate food made in shared facilities, and others can’t. Some kids will have a reaction if that kind of food touches them. So parents of children with food allergies need to be clear and vocal so parents like you have clear guidance.

    One year, you might be in a class where shared equipment is OK, and the next, they say all foods must be from a peanut free facility.

    A simple yet awesome thing you can do is to make sure that your child washes their hands well before leaving for school. This makes sure they don’t have peanut residue on their hands if they’ve had peanut butter with breakfast, etc.

    I hope that list gives you a good starting point. Feel free to reach out again if you need more ideas.

    Wishing you the best on this!
    ~The Allergy Chef

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