Day 1 in a Series on Cross Contamination and Food Allergies: School Field Trips

Cross-contamination is every parents’ greatest fear when you have a child/children with food allergies. There is not a day that goes by when the thought doesn’t cross your mind.

Whether I am purchasing food in a store, choosing a dish in a restaurant, deciding to accept an invitation to a friend’s or family’s dinner/a child’s birthday party or a school outing, preparing food in my home, at a friend’s or at a family’s home…cross-contamination issues will arise.

Tackling those cross-contamination issues is yet another challenge.

School trips are one of the highlights of the school year. My boys are forever looking forward to them. In our house, school trips are never taken for granted. Each trip is carefully discussed to eleviate any risks for cross contamination which may lead to an anaphylactic reaction.

School Field Trips are an integral part of learning. Great hands on experiences: visiting the ROM to examine ancient artifacts or to learn all about water and our environment, visiting the AGO to view first hand, the treasures and artifacts of Tutankhamun, or reliving the life of a soldier living at Old Fort York.

Experiences to last a life time!

Unfortunately, food allergies can pose a few challenges. With a bit of compassion, common sense and an emergency plan in place those challenges can be met.

Case in point:

Matthew’s Grade 8 class has planned a bowling trip to Neb’s Fun World today, to meet and acquaint themselves with grade 8’s from another school going on their Grade 8 Graduation Trip to Camp Muskoka January 25-27, 2012.

sign of Neb's Fun WorldA note came home describing the day: bowling in the morning with a pizza lunch and tokens for the games room.

Sounds fantastic!

Here’s the catch: when you have a peanut/tree nut allergy or any food allergy, one must double-check with the establishment their policy on food allergens and whether or not the food that will be served is contaminated with any food allergens.

I sent an email to Neb’s Fun World enquiring about their peanut/tree nut policy and whether or not their pizza would be safe for my son to eat.

A reply was quickly sent back with a note that the kitchen was not nut free, therefore they could not make any guarantees. It was up to my discretion as to whether or not he had the pizza. The reply also stated their policy is to ban outside food and drink however, in the case of a dietary allergy it did not apply. It was recommended that my son bring a safe lunch to be on the safe side. A PDF was attached with the pizza ingredient list.

I sent a reply back thanking them for their quick response and that I would be contacting them on Monday to discuss my son’s peanut/tree nut allergy.

A second reply advised me to contact Maria, co-president of Neb’s and head of the kitchen.

Maria was completely understanding and seemed pleased that I had called to discuss my concerns for my son’s peanut/tree nut allergy and Neb’s pizza lunch.

Maria was concerned about other patrons who may bring food in which may contain peanut/tree nuts. She had no control or guarantees regarding any outside food. I reassured her that I am aware of those instances and prepare for them wherever I go. My best defense: washing hands and always caring an epi pen.

Maria was also concerned that my son may be centered out by not having the pizza like the other kids. Her compassion for my son was very evident. I can’t tell you how relieved I felt talking with her. Maria took my concerns seriously…she totally got it!

My concern lay in the ingredients themselves and the process of making the pizza. As the pizza crust is made outside of the kitchen, Maria checked the ingredient list for any peanut/tree nut claims. Not only that, she personally called the pizza crust company to double-check and found that the pizza crust was peanut, dairy and shellfish free. Yeah!

Maria assured me that she would take an extra precaution and have Matthew’s pizza pan triple washed and bleached. (The pizza pans are used to bake the White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies and Chocolate Chip Cookies which may contain trace amounts of peanut/tree nuts. She would make sure that cookies were not baked that day.)

I know there are no guarantees no matter where we go. I feel comfortable with the preventative measures that Neb’s has put in place to prevent any cross contamination issues with peanut/tree nuts and the pizza that Matthew will be eating. I feel assured that they will do their best.

Everyone has their own level of risk tolerance… I felt that the measures taken to ensure Matthew’s safety made the situation low risk.

That said, an emergency/backup plan is always needed. Extra Epi Pens will be sent (the teacher and I will have an extra epi pen each) and hands will be washed before eating. I will be attending this field trip to help supervise the students and be a part of the teacher/supervisors bowling team!

Update: Upon my early arrival, I was informed that Maria was not available today. Her daughter Krista, however, was made aware of our arrangement and assured me that all was set for the preparation of Matthew’s peanut/tree nut free pizza.

With all the arrangements made, it was on to the games!

I have to admit…the shoes are quite comfortable and they add that touch of red that I always like! lol

my fancy bowling shoes

Mr. G. (Matthew’s Grade 8 teacher) outplayed us all…he is The King of Bowling!

Mr.G bowling

Note his perfect form! (Apparantly, he was out last night practicing!)

Mine, on the other hand, could use some work!

myself bowling at Neb's

Matthew’s form shows great promise…right down the middle!

Matthew bowling at Neb's

The students were given tokens to use in Neb’s Games Room.

That’s in the basket…nice shot!

Matthew in the Games Room at Neb's

Pizza time!

Matthew's peanut/tree nut free 'safe' pizza at Neb's

Matthew’s peanut/tree nut free ‘safe’ pizza was brought out to him straight from the oven…thank you Neb’s!

One happy, hungry boy!

Matthew enjoying a slice of his peanut/tree nut free 'safe' pizza at Neb's

Compassion, common sense, communication and an emergency plan…the ‘perfect ingredients’ for a successful school field trip.

P.S. Matthew’s field trip was a success due in part to the cooperation and understanding of his teachers’ and the staff at Neb’s Fun World. We all worked as a team to ensure the safety of Matthew at the event. Thank you all!

P.P.S. If you are considering visiting Neb’s Fun World and have food allergies, please contact Maria to discuss your specific needs. I only discussed cross-contamination with the pizza…they serve other food that would need discussing specific to one’s allergen needs.

P.P.P.S. The chocolate bars in the vending machines do not contain nuts, some may or may not contain traces due to the facility that manufactured them. Also the treats that you can purchase with your tickets from the Games Room may or may not contain traces of nuts.

Tip: Surprise your child by bringing your own allergen friendly treats to exchange for the tickets…one might be the promise to come back for another time!

Update: Since our visit, Neb’s Fun World has added, to their website, ingredient lists for all their most popular food items. This will be most helpful for the allergy community. Thank you Neb’s! Click here to check out the link.

Question: What experiences have you encountered with school field trips and your child/children’s food allergies and cross-contamination? Please share.


12 thoughts on “Day 1 in a Series on Cross Contamination and Food Allergies: School Field Trips

  1. That is an awesome story! It seems like when I try to be diligent and make the calls several days in advance the person I talk to is often out when it comes time to actually eat. I thought that was where you’re story was going at first. Glad she left instructions, and it had a happy ending!

    • I was disappointed that Maria was unavailable, however, her daughter was well informed as were the kitchen staff and all went according to plan. It was definitely a fun day at Neb’s Fun World!

  2. That is a reassuring and great story. Maria seems like a very kind and thoughtful person. I will definitely keep Neb’s Fun World in mind if we are out and about in Ontario way.

  3. When I was teaching I used to have nightmares about this very thing. Nowadays allergies are so common that it’s always on the teachers mind also. Having said that, I used to work in a nut free school that sent home letters, emails and constant reminders to not send students to school with ANY snacks or food that could contain nuts and yet parents seemed to forget or not pay attention. It’s very frustrating on our end too.

    • There will always be those that forget or just ‘don’t get it’. Therefore, I have taught my boys to always look out for themselves…never assume…always wash their hands before eating and always be wearing their epi pen when they are eating. Those are my two golden rules. Your frustration shows your compassion, thank you!

    • Deciding on homeschooling is a personal choice. To help with your decision, you may want to look into the schools that your daughter would be attending. Make an appointment to talk to the principal about their policies and your concerns. Communication is key! Talking to parents of children that attend the school can also give you some insight. Good luck! Sorry for the delayed approval and response your comment slipped by me by accident.

  4. I’m so glad the trip went well and everybody stayed safe. It’s awesome that Maria was so understanding and even left instructions. The people who get it are so very valuable.

    • Yes, people like Maria are truly priceless! I will be sending her a link to my story to convey to her how appreciated her efforts are to the allergy community. It’s the little things in life, that most take for granted, that can make all the difference in the world!

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