WebstaurantStore / Food Service Resources / In-Depth Articles / Food Allergy For School Foodservice
Food Allergy For School Foodservice

Food Allergy For School Foodservice

Last updated on 9/21/2017

Food allergies are of particular concern in the school foodservice environment. It is important to note two facts: First, children are statistically more susceptible to food allergy reactions in the school setting. And second, meal accommodations must be made for students with food allergies to avoid civil rights suits filed against your institution.

The CDC reports that 16% to 18% of children with food allergies have had allergic reactions to accidental ingestion of food allergens while in school. Often times, children may not even be aware of the food allergy until first exposure to food groups at school. In fact, 25% of food-induced anaphylaxis reactions in schools occur among students without a previous food allergy diagnosis.

Legal Matters

Food allergy management can have legal repercussions in the school setting. Under certain federal laws, it is mandated that appropriate accommodations, substitutions, and services be provided to a child with a life threatening food allergy. If governing laws are not followed, parents can file a civil rights claim on behalf of the student. This is because a life threatening food allergy may be considered a disability under certain federal laws including the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments of 2008 (ADAA).

Food allergy accommodations do not just pertain to elementary and high school educational settings. In late 2012, the Lesley University ruling highlighted the need for college institutions to ensure that students with celiac disease and other food allergies can "fully and equally enjoy the university's meal plan and food services" in compliance with the American Disabilities Act.

How To Ensure Student Safety

The figures and facts mentioned above may seem daunting - but many resources exist to help prepare your foodservice staff for effective food allergy management. To meet the needs of students with known food allergies, start with these three effective steps: 

1.  Collect proper documentation. This includes a diet prescription form completed by a licensed healthcare provider to help school nutrition staff to make the appropriate accommodations and substitutions. 

2.  Identify students with allergies, develop a written management plan, and outline medication protocols (storage, access, and administration). 

3.  It is also important to have a general written management plan for students without known allergies in the event that food-allergy related symptoms arise.

For more facts, figures, and examples of written management plans, view the CDC's Overview of Allergies in Schools and the National School Board Association's Comprehensive Policy Guide For Protecting Students with Life-Threatening Food Allergies.

Avoid Cross-Contact At Your Serving Line and Cafeteria

Cross-contact is a main culprit of many food allergy episodes. Cross-contact is the transfer of an allergen from a food containing the allergen to a food that does not contain the allergen. Keep in mind that this differs from cross-contamination, which is attributed to foodborne illness. Sometimes, even a trace amount of food is enough to trigger an allergic reaction. Check out these methods to avoid common cross-contact incidents in a cafeteria setting. For a more in depth look at cross-contact prevention, view our Allergy Guide for Restaurants.

Avoid cross-contact at your serving line and cafeteria


  • Place nutrition and allergen cards on food shields and sneeze guards.
  • Use proprietary guards to help eliminate cross-contact.
  • Don't use the same ladle, pair of tongs, scoop, and other utensils to serve more than one specific dish. Consider using color-coded serving utensils and safety products to designate dishes free of - or containing - the “Big Eight” (milk, fish, soybeans, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, shellfish, and wheat). 


Related Resources

Food Allergy Overview

Introduction: Recently, the National Restaurant Association shifted their focus to a growing area of food safety concern: Food Allergies. The CDC reports that the number of people with food allergies increased 18% between 2000 and 2010. It's especially pertinent to address this issue at your foodservice business so diners can feel comfortable eating food outside of their own kitchens. In fact, ServSafe reports that half the fatal episodes from food allergens occur outside the home. You might wonder: Is my restaurant legally obligated to accommodate customers with food allergies? How do I ensure the safety of diners with life threatening allergies? What are the most common food allergens? We cover all of that - and more - in this comprehensi

Food Allergy For Suppliers

If the food product you produce is regulated by the FDA, your business falls under the requirements outlined under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA). This labeling applies to all retail and foodservice establishments that package, label, and offer products for human consumption. This applies to food products that are labeled on or after January 1, 2006. Unsure of how FALCPA affects your food service business? This Question-and-Answer section covers the essentials of food allergen labeling laws. For the complete law and a more extensive Q&A , visit FDA.gov . Food Allergen Q&A Does FALCPA apply to my foodservice business? If you are a retail and foodservice establishment that packages, labels, and

Food Allergy Safety Products

In an ideal world, you'd wash, rinse, and sanitize every utensil prior to preparing a meal for a customer with an allergy. But even trace amounts of food can cause cross-contact. To eliminate the risk completely, designate equipment for known allergy-only meals. This equipment should be stored separately and labeled in some way to note it is only to be used on food allergen dishes. Purple-colored kitchen supplies are commonly used to prepare food allergy dishes. In this article, we highlight some allergen safe kitchen tools that can be found right here at WebstaurantStore! And don't forget that many of our knives , spatulas , gloves , towels and other products come in various colors to help you create your own color coded system to avoid cr

Subscribe now for great deals and industry tips! Sign up for our mailing list to have weekly discounts and industry knowledge sent right to your inbox.

Food Service Resources

Tips, guides, & advice

Explore Resources
  • Visa
  • Discover
  • American Express
  • MasterCard
  • Paypal