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Environmental health expert urges schools to educate on allergens

Environmental health expert urges schools to educate on allergens

As schools welcome students back, albeit with greater COVID-19 health and safety measures in place, leaders must begin to give thought to other areas of concern too. Namely, food safety standards.

With over 30,000 schools in the UK, all focusing more vigilantly on health, safety and risk mitigation to contain the spread of the virus, cross-contamination and hygiene are perhaps being given the greatest attention when it comes to food.

However, Kirstie Jones, environmental health officer at Leicester based Navitas Safety, administrators of digital food safety management, compliance and training, urges that more must be done by schools and education leaders, if we are to protect children against other food-related risks too.

“Education on allergens and food safety should ultimately form part of the national school curriculum. Children learn best when they are young and learned behaviours can influence lifelong habits and routines.

“Therefore, knowing the basics of food safety at an early age will not only protect children from tragic accidents while young but also stand them in good stead to ensure they do not fall foul to food poisoning later in life, too.”

In the UK, it is reported that 7% of children have a food allergy. While reactions can be treated in most cases, some can be more severe and even fatal. And it’s these that can be prevented with effective education and being better informed.

hile education is important, what should be remembered is that allergen information is, in fact, a matter of life or death. That said, integrating teachings into lessons and daily routines should be supported with fool-proof aids to minimise the chance of any accidents.

Kirstie emphasises that this isn’t about finding flaws in teachers but rather a way to experiment with teaching methods, safe in the knowledge that the system you have in place will see no child’s wellbeing put at risk.

“Aids could include ‘free-from’ menus, the use of pictorial symbols or even integration with digital systems, whereby when a child scans their thumb to purchase a lunch, any allergies they have can be flagged up and their tray cross-checked by a supervisor.

“In an ideal world, there would be one chosen method that is implemented consistently to avoid instances of inaccurate information provision, which could result in harm to an allergy sufferer. While we wait for this universal solution, for now, it is up to school leaders to take the issue further and do what they can to protect the children in their care.”

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