As a dining service that primarily serves children ages 5-18 in approximately 275 independent schools in North American states and provinces, including British Columbia, we know first-hand about the severity, prevalence, and rising incidences of food allergies in recent years. Feeding food-allergic students, some of whom may be navigating food choices independently for the first time, is a tremendous responsibility that we take very seriously.
To better understand our food-allergic population, we conduct an annual client survey about allergies to the following 12 foods: egg, fish, gluten, milk, mustard, peanuts, sesame, shellfish, soy, sulfites, tree nuts, and wheat. We recognize this list of 12 allergens (more than the eight recognized by law in the U.S.), because we serve venues in Canada, where mustard, sulfites, gluten, and sesame are also recognized as major allergens. Each year, we receive approximately 200 surveys, representing approximately 130,000-140,000 students.
We’re committed to providing a safe dining environment for students with food allergies. Knowing which allergies are most prevalent enables our Managers and Registered Dietitians to build recipes and menus to accommodate food-allergic guests. It also allows us to see trends, such as a rise in sesame allergies in the past few years. We recently responded to the FDA’s request for comments about this prevalence, providing information from our survey that showed a 30% increase in sesame allergies between the 2015-2016 and 2017-2018 academic years.
Our approach to food allergies values both safety and inclusivity in dining communities that foster community. From our comprehensive ingredient and menu review, to our online allergen filter and open kitchen policy, we ensure students with food allergies have confidence in the information they have about their meals, and in the environment in which they’re dining.
Here are the results from the 2018-2019 study: