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School food bans have now extended to fruit as food allergies increase.

Each morning before my children wake I sneak down to the kitchen to pack their school lunches.

I’ve realised that its better to do it before they wake because having three extra bodies nearby to make requests makes things even more difficult than they are.

Sorry grapes aren't allowed anymore. Image via IStock.

Packing school lunches is no easy task.

There’s the requirement that it be healthy so that’s the packets of 'Shapes' and 'Tiny Teddies' out the window, the requirement that it be ‘low waste’ meaning the yoghurt tubs have to squeezed out into the lunch box section directly so your kid doesn’t get targeted for producing too much garbage (yeah I know that’s cheating but come on…) and the lengthy list of foods that are either banned or “requested to be avoided.”

(Not to mention your own child’s overly fussy dietary preferences.)

School lunches can be so complex to prepare you think back to the days of pureeing sweet potatoes with fondness.

What is making it even tricker for parents is the growing list of foods banned or ‘discouraged’ at schools and pre-schools. It used to just be peanuts but each year we hear of more and more things frowned upon in the lunchbox.

From nuts and eggs to soy, dairy, bananas, shellfish, beef, watermelon, mangos, grapes, chocolate, lollies, chips, soft drinks and juices, dried noodles, chicken sandwiches (for fear of salmonella) fried foods and muesli bars.

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It’s enough to make you want to buy shares in Vegemite.

It begs the question though where do you draw the line?

That’s what the parents at one Melbourne school have been asking with their list of banned foods extending to certain fruits being discouraged due to food allergies.

The Herald Sun reports that Point Cook P-9 College in Melbourne has urged parents to avoid sending bananas, watermelon, soy, wheat, eggs, dairy, and nuts in lunches.

The request is to cater to children with mild allergies, right through to those with life threatening anaphylaxis.

Other schools have banned mangos and kiwi-fruits.

Principal of Point Cook P-9 College, Frank Vetere, told The Herald Sun they had contacted families whose children had classmates with allergies.

“There seems to be a growing number of students with allergies, and we try to manage it the best we can with proactive measures,” he said.

“We have 20 students with allergies and they are all different.”

Fruit banned at certain schools in some classes. Image via IStock.

“With every class that has a child with an allergy, we send out a letter to the families.”

The reaction from school parents has been mixed..

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“Omg, soon they will be taking empty lunch boxes to school” wrote one on social media.

Another: “My children both have allergies, one anaphylactic. I would never expect other children to be restricted as a result of what my kids can and can't have. They are responsible enough not to eat those dangerous foods.”

Others agreed with the restrictions though “If a child has a life threatening allergy and the school lets parents know I understand avoiding a certain food to be safe.”

The Victorian Education Department say they do not advocate bans at schools but advise individual health management plans for each child.

Spokesman Simon Craig said “We have a rigorous set of policies and procedures in place to help our schools minimise the risk of anaphylaxis and food allergies and effectively manage any reactions, including individual health management plans for each child who identifies as having a serious allergy,”

Schools in NSW too don’t “ban nuts” – as really unless they had a lunch box police team they couldn’t – but they do use strong wording in their policies “asking” and “discouraging” families not to bring nuts or nut products ( or other allergens) to the school site or to school activities.

At a pre-school my daughter attends last year there was a child with a wheat allergy. Image via IStock.

On the NSW Government schools web site they say “it is never possible to guarantee a school site is nut free. It is important that schools do not claim they are ‘nut or peanut free’. Such a claim could not reliably be made and, if made, may lead to a false sense of security about exposure to peanuts and peanut products. “

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In pre-schools though it’s a different story, the children are younger, more vulnerable to touching each other’s food and for those at risk, more vulnerable to exposure.

At a pre-school my daughter attends last year there was a child with a wheat allergy. Obviously it is difficult for a centre to ask the parents of the 38 other children there not to pack sandwiches, so instead they had a separation policy, the kids who had sandwiches (and they were only allowed at lunch time) had to eat on a particular mat that was cleaned each time after use. They had to wash their hands immediately after eating the sandwiches and their clothes were brushed down.

One in every ten child is diagnosed with a for allergy. Image via IStock.

While it sounds dramatic the parents didn’t complain. We all know that food allergies are increasing, we know they can be life threatening and that kids of that age don't know any different.

As food allergies increase - one in every ten child is diagnosed with one - schools and daycares struggle to make policies that fit this changing dietary landscape.

For the parents of children with a food allergy, who from the minute their child was diagnosed have strived to educate them to be aware of what they can and can’t eat, the very little the rest of us can do is respect that.

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