The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has published new school food allergy guidelines that provide practical information and strategies for schools while reinforcing federal laws and regulations. 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, as well as guide improvements to existing practices.

Among the Guidelines recommendations are the following...
• 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,” says CDC Division of Population Health Director Wayne Giles, MD, MS. “CDC greatly appreciates the collaborative process that engaged multiple federal agencies and national non-government organizations in the development of these guidelines.”

There are nearly 6 million children in the U.S. with food allergies and more than 15 percent of them have had a reaction at school, while about a quarter of epinephrine administrations in the school setting involved an individual whose allergy was previously undiagnosed.

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 signed into law on Jan. 4, 2011. It requires 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.