Importance of schools effectively managing allergies

Importance of schools effectively managing allergies

Importance of schools effectively managing allergies

Food allergies appear to be rising in prevalence, at present 1 in 12 children suffer from a food allergy1. Young children are at particular risk from food allergies with incidences (often life threatening) estimated to be up to four times more likely in toddlers than in adults.

The transition of a child starting school is likely to be both exciting and nerve wrecking for any parent, but for those whose children have allergies this time may be especially worrying due to having less control of what their child may have contact with. Food allergies will affect the daily life of a child, impacting their ability to make food choices freely, causing isolation at social events, for example birthday parties and increased anxiety due to being ‘different’.

The physical symptoms of an allergic reaction may also impact mood, for example, physical symptoms, such as, eczema or hives can affect self-esteem. In addition, allergies can have severe consequences to a child’s relationship with food, leading to food aversions or refusal of foods, increasing the risk of disordered eating and affecting their ability to consume a balanced diet which is crucial for healthy growth and development.

Food allergies cause significant stress both to the parent and the child daily, they come with a very real and life-threatening danger as well as profound psychological impact and it is essential that schools can effectively manage allergens to ensure the well-being, safety and an inclusive learning experience for all students.

Allergen policy

A clear and concise allergen policy, outlining the procedures for managing allergens on school premises, should be developed, and implemented. This policy should be communicated to all who have contact with the students, including students themselves, as well as those handling the food, eg. staff, parents, and caterers, to provide a safe environment for children with allergens.

Staff Training

Training should be provided to all staff, including teachers and cafeteria and lunchtime staff on the awareness of allergens, how to recognise the signs of an allergic reaction and safe and effective management. Pupils with severe allergies that could lead to an anaphylactic reaction should carry adrenaline-auto injectors, staff members should be trained to use these.

School meals and catering

Adhering to legislation such as Natasha’s Law is the responsibility of anyone handling food and enables allergens to be identified and necessary procedures to be implemented. Another factor that should be considered and assessed regularly is the risk of cross-contamination as it poses a significant risk for students with severe allergies.

Cross-contamination can occur at any point when food is being handled, including preparation, cooking, storage and serving, therefore can be very challenging to avoid, especially if schools are scratch cooking for large numbers of students with varying dietary needs and severe allergies.

The risks can be significantly reduced when using premium pre-prepared meals as they will have been produced in a strictly controlled environment, safely packed and labelled. For added reassurance, at apetito, we see the importance in testing a sample from every batch of Gluten Free and Free From meals for allergens cooked in our kitchens in our approved on-site laboratory.

It is evident that allergens are too big to ignore, the prevalence is rising, and the consequences of poor awareness can be fatal. Schools should be confident they can provide a safe, nourishing and tasty meal to children with allergens. Food is essential for health and well-being as well as social development, mealtimes are a very social occasion and therefore reassurance that the meal provided is safe is key to supporting engagement between students and a positive relationship with food.

References: 1. Allergy in childhood: Allergy UK: National Charity [Internet]. [cited 2024 Apr 17]. Available from: 2. Statistics and figures: Allergy UK: National Charity [Internet]. [cited 2024 Apr 17]. Available from:

For further information please contact:

01225 962592