They came for our peanuts and we were silent. Because who really needs peanuts, anyway? But the idea of banning eggs and dairy from an Ontario elementary school, from the milk in the cafeteria, to cheese in the sandwiches, to the pudding in the pudding packs? That seems to be one bridge too far.
The National Post reports that a Hamilton, Ont., mother has launched a human rights complaint against her six-year-old daughter's school for failing to remove eggs and dairy from campus to accommodate the child's allergies.
“I’m not looking for a guaranteed allergy-free environment because I know it’s not possible," said the woman fighting to have eggs and dairy removed from an elementary school. "But reasonable accommodations that fall in line with our doctor’s diagnosis is just plain common sense."
On one hand, it is hard to imagine an elementary school being forbidden from serving children eggs and dairy. On the other, the mother makes it seem like the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Elementary School is a bacchanal of cheese and milk.
With their milk and snack program pushing puddings and yogurts on children, their bake sales and pizza days, students munching on cheese sandwiches at lunch and drinking their demon juices at all hours of the day, not to mention Valentine's Day chocolates, it's hard to imagine how any learning takes place at all.
Of course, this could be seen as another case of society facing extreme demands for the benefit of the few. Another battle in the war on stuff. The war on stuff is vast and ever-expanding. Peanuts were an early – did you know you can buy peanut-free peanut butter nowadays?
Citrus fruit has been banned in some places. Balls were almost annexed from a Toronto school playground – which, while not an allergy concern, surely falls within the purview of the safety debate.
In 2012, an Ontario mother launched a bid to have several mature oak trees removed from outside her nut-allergic daughter's school. After some mockery and much protest, she relented.
Imagine, a neighbourhood losing its fully-grown trees for no other reason than to allow one mother to drop one daughter off at school without having to dodge fallen acorns. Elsewhere in the country, communities are running tree-planting campaigns. Surely there is a parent out there somewhere furious that their child does not have better access to oak trees.
In many ways, that battle plays out again in this case. Milk and eggs are significant cornerstones of a balanced, healthy diet. Health Canada spends much effort urging children to consume more of them.
There is, however, already a well-established system on how to handle dietary allergies in Ontario schools. Sabrina's Law, passed in 2005 and named after a teen who died after accidentally eating dairy in an Ontario school, mandates:
- That employees and teachers be trained to deal with life-threatening allergies
- That parents and guardians be asked to supply information about life-threatening allergies
- That principals maintain records for each anaphylactic student, and
- That schools remain prepared and equipped to help students who have strong allergic reactions.
The argument in this case could be that the school failed to live up to those obligations, but there seems to be some history of trying. As recently as December, the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Elementary School announced that students could only eat in designated areas, banned food from communal play areas, requested that only non-food items were shared on special occasions like birthdays and sought to established a team to address the issue of food allergies on school grounds.
That's not to discount those affected by food allergies. Health Canada estimates there are 1.8 million Canadians affected by food allergies - milk and egg allergies rank among the 10 most common types. Heath Canada also says the number of allergic citizens is increasing, especially among children.
But the only way to prevent allergic reactions is to avoid the allergen. And that means learn how to avoid them early. That can be accomplished safely without a all-out ban on eggs and dairy.
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