Advanced search

Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you have any medical concerns we suggest you consult your GP.

Come and talk to me if your allergic child has school lunches

(14 Posts)
RationalBrain Mon 08-Oct-12 17:00:33


Dd1 (5) has just started, and we have found out that she has been given at least two things with her allergen in (milk/egg). Apart from trying very hard not to march up to the school and give them what for (I've settled for a very polite email), can I ask what procedures your school has in place for identifying the children needing a special diet?

This school doesn't like to label the children as it would make them feel different (grr, that's the whole point, they are different!). So I think that the canteen staff simply haven't realised dd1 is an allergic child on occasion, especially at the start of term.

What does your school do that I should get our school to do too? Thanks

(ps I am very secretly happy that dd1 didn't react noticeably, but still cross!)

Magicmayhem Mon 08-Oct-12 17:08:32

my DS is 14 now and has been allergic to dairy eggs and nuts since he was born, but diagnosed by allergy testing when he was 2. He has an epi pen for these allergies.

To be honest I did think about him having school dinners, but couldn't cope with the daily stress if they got it wrong, so he's always had packed lunch from home.

How can you be sure she had food with milk and egg in if she didn't react noticably? how bad is her allergy, does she have an epi-pen. Do you have an allergy plan for the school, and a letter from her doctor?

I do think your right that the children know they are different as after all, this could save their life.

sorry for all the questions by the way

quoteunquote Mon 08-Oct-12 17:10:50

Do not risk school meals, what ever assurance you are given.
get these, they keep anything hot until lunch mine have all sorts of things from jacket potatoes,pasta,curries anything, just heat up and bung in.

there should be some sort of qualification for catering staff to take so that they really understand the implications of getting it wrong.

freefrommum Mon 08-Oct-12 18:36:37

My DS is 5 and has school lunches once a week on Wednesdays when it's roast dinner. He has severe allergies to milk, wheat, eggs and nuts. I met with the dietician and catering staff before he started school last year to discuss his allergies and how we could adapt certain meals for him (I had already met with the Head, school nurse and class teacher). The school was willing for him to have lunches more than once a week but I found it a bit stressful so decided to stick to just once a week (and a meal that needs very little adapting). The idea of school not wanting to 'label' children is all well and good but a child with life-threatening allergies MUST be identified to all staff and children otherwise it could be extremely dangerous. Would they not bother telling anyone that a child was epileptic or diabetic etc? The canteen has photos and instructions on the wall of all the children who require special meals (inc. halal or kosher as well coeliacs, allergies etc). I do provide a suitable powdered gravy for my DS as they're own contains wheat so they just make a separate jug of that for him. It has worked very well and the only time there's been a problem was when the oven didn't work one day and they had to give children sandwiches instead so I got a phone call from the school and had to dash home from work to make packed lunch and take it up to school! Thankfully that's only happened once smile

RationalBrain Mon 08-Oct-12 19:15:47

Magicmayhem - yes she has an epipen (jext actually now). However, she passed the baked challenges, so I am a little more confident than I was that she can cope with the occasional cross contamination or trace of allergen. As we have just seen, this time, she can. But I want to be sure there isn't a next time. Allergies are unpredictable, and the effect can be cumulative, or have a knock on effect eg on her asthma.

I can be sure there was dairy in those dishes as I have just received copies of the dietary information for all the meals, after much asking. And because I have yet to come across a chocolate crispie cake without milk, so was horrified when dd1 said that is what she had on the first day!

Yes the school has her allergy details/meds plan/doctors letter. The food comes in to the school all identified with the allergens in a very easy to check list, which is part of the reason I decided we could do school lunches, after lots of discussion and reassurance from the school that they already provide for other allergic children successfully.

The problem isn't so much the catering staff, although they do apparently have a book with photos of the relevant children in. It's that there is no prompt for the catering staff to check said book, so easy for them to miss the child in the lunch rush.

Personally, I think she should wear a tag or something easy to spot, to remind the staff. I was wondering what other schools did.

I know we could do packed lunches, but it took a lot of persuasion to a frightened dd that school lunches would be fine, and she loves being able to have them and be semi-normal. I don't want to back down if there is another way they can do it that is better. And I don't see why I should either, they should have more robust procedures in place, even if not for us, for the next poor guinea pig allergic child that comes along.

<gets off soap box>

RationalBrain Mon 08-Oct-12 19:17:37

Quoteunquote - that looks like a good product if we have to go that route, thanks.

freefrommum Mon 08-Oct-12 21:41:14

I agree totally Rational, my DS loves having school dinners 'just like his friends' and I would hate to take that away from him even though it scares me to death! I forgot to mention that one of his classroom assistants always goes with him at lunchtime, whether he's having dinners or packed lunch, to keep an eye on him and make sure there are no disasters. They also make sure he sits on the end of the table next to one of his closest friends who is very aware of his allergies. I would be truly horrified if I discovered that he had been given something containing one of his allergens - it could kill him! I think you're handling it very well, I probably would've been ranting and raving like a banshee in the Head's office by now!

Oh and DS does wear an allergy alert wristband wherever he goes but I'm not sure the catering staff would necessarily notice that. We're lucky that it's a very small school so everyone knows DS (and his allergies!) really well.

superoz Mon 08-Oct-12 23:06:42

Definitely have another chat to the catering staff again.

dd(5) has started school dinners 2 days a week. We had a meeting with the school cook at the beginning of term, went through her allergies (dairy, nut, fish, eggs) and they put a meal plan together so it would be the same every week which we checked over and signed off. The only thing that differed sometimes would be the type of dessert. She did have a slight reaction last week when they made a special carrot cake which was apparently "safe" - dd said her lips felt tingly when she ate it. The staff said they were very careful to use separate equipment for cooking but it turned out they made it from a packet mix so it was probably due to contamination or undeclared traces of suspect ingredients. They have now said they will stick to safe desserts such as jelly, fruit etc.

dd absolutely loves school dinners and complains about her packed lunches as she is sick of them - but she knows what would happen if she comes into contact with the wrong thing. The staff make sure she is sitting not alone, but a sufficient distance away from the children eating things that she is allergic to.

RationalBrain Tue 09-Oct-12 09:19:01

freefrommum - thanks, having someone watching over her seems like a very good idea. I wonder if the head will go for that... Worth a try. They seem rather relaxed about the whole thing hmm. She does have a medic alert wristband as well, but its usually hiding under her cardigan.

My DH is doing the ranting and raving, don't worry! I'm trying to keep calm and logical so I can get somewhere productively with the school. I'm just glad she seems to be handling the traces of milk and egg well (so far).

RationalBrain Tue 09-Oct-12 11:20:04

OK, the calm and logical approach with school didn't work. The Head is telling me that DD1 hasn't ever had the food that contained milk, their procedures are robust, and that they have never had a breach.

In other words, I am making it up.

Now I'm mad, really mad angry.

Come and tell me how I can deal with this productively, rather than just going in and shouting, very loudly.

Bilbomum Tue 09-Oct-12 11:45:18

Well, DS is in Year 2 now and has severe milk/egg/nut/sesame allergies and I have never thought it safe for him to have school meals. I don't expect a kitchen to take the same care as I do over cross contamination when preparing food. Even if they say they're going to I think the reality of cooking for a large number of kids would make it very hard to guarantee.

DS has been happy with this, at least half the kids in our school seem to be on packed lunches anyway. The school have been great with everything else but I've always felt school lunches are a step too far for us to risk.

RationalBrain Tue 09-Oct-12 11:48:25

Bilbomum - I don't think cross contamination is too much of a risk for DD, as her allergies seem to be lessening, hence why we decided it would be OK to try school lunches.

The problem is that she has been given food that definitely does contain milk!

notapizzaeater Thu 11-Oct-12 21:25:25

Our school wouldnt cater for DS coeliac intolerance until the doctor had done a careplan for him, after this we have had no problems.

DS knows he is different, he knows he has a diff lunch to everyone else and always always queries anything he hasnt had before. I supply GF pasta, gravy, pizza bases as the school ones are all horrid !! He generaly has fruit or yoghurt for pud and the cook batch makes him cakes/biscuits BUT ours is a little village school and I can pop in and talk to the cook. They did once gluten him by mistake giving him oats - The cook was more upset than us.

I could send him in with packed lunch but the benefit for us/him outweighs the risk

megandraper Mon 15-Oct-12 14:17:41

My 5 year old DS is coeliac and has school lunches.

It is a small school, with a small catering team who make everything on-site. There is just one meal served for the children, with no choices and they all eat together (no-one has packed lunches). So I was really keen for DS to be able to do the same as everyone else.

I have worked really closely with the catering team on this. We paid for 2 members of the team to do an online training course run by the Coeliac Society about catering for gluten-free. They both passed and have a certificate, and have learned a lot from it.

I pop my head into the kitchen at least once a week when dropping off DS and chat to the cook. She checks ingredients with me (less often now that she has done the course and gained more knowledge) and asks me to bring in substitute ingredients for some things (like sausages).

We had one breach, in DS's first week. The catering team identified it had happened and rang me from school. DS was not showing any symptoms, but did later that night. The breach was due to their butcher supplying a different type of sausage-meat (with rusk) from the usual (pure meat) one. So now they have a procedure for checking the right meat has been delivered. I was very supportive and non-critical of them over this incident - I felt they had acted very well in realising it had happened, telephoning me straight away (they even kept his leftover lunch so they could show me how much he'd eaten).

Nearly all the time DS has the same main course lunch as everyone else, just with a small difference (e.g. no sauce or a sauce with fewer ingredients). He often has a different pudding (they make a special batch of sponge puddings for him and freeze them). They bring out his bread separately and give it to him at the table (everyone else collects theirs in the queue). They also ask him to raise his hand when he comes to the front of the queue so that they look carefully and notice it's him - which he does very diligently apparently.

I think you should ask for a meeting with the head of catering, and to have regular reviews with them of procedures. But I think you need to do this in a very supportive and helpful way, IYSWIM - putting yourself on their side and showing you are appreciative of their efforts (assuming they are making them!) You could also ask to be walked through their procedures in how they identify your child and how they ensure food is not mixed up in preparation.

Our school catering team is really lovely. They clearly care a lot about getting it right, and they are delighted at how well DS is doing and how much he loves the gf choc buns all the food they make.

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: