Halifax school puts potatoes on restricted food list
An elementary school in south-end Halifax has added potatoes to a list of unwelcome food items at the school, and health officials say they expect that list to keep growing as the number of allergies increases.
Sir Charles Tupper Elementary School sent out a list of foods that can affect some of their students with life-threatening allergies, including tree nuts, peanuts and eggs.
This year's list also includes potatoes and potato products, including potato chips, potato salad, hash browns, fries and mashed potatoes.
Jennifer Wallace, who has two daughters attending Sir Charles Tupper Elementary School, said neither of her children have food allergies but it's still a constant concern.
"This is the first year they've stayed for lunch so things that I was counting on, like a little bit of turkey with a bit of mashed potatoes or egg salad sandwiches," she said.
"When I got my list in September I thought, 'OK, I have to totally rethink this.'"
Dr. Sandy Kapur, a pediatrician at the Halifax Allergy and Asthma Associates, said it's rare that a child would have a potato allergy that encompasses cooked potato products.
"Potatoes are actually related, in some ways, to outdoor grass pollen and many patients who are grass pollen allergic will have problems with potatoes," he said.
"Typically, those patients will have a problem with raw potatoes."
Kapur said he has noticed an increase in childhood allergies, partly because of better diagnosis and partly because there are more children who develop allergies.
No one is sure why that is, Kapur said, but the list of allergies is growing
Allergies to kiwi, sesame, flax and mustard seed allergies are also becoming more common, he said.
Each school in the Halifax Regional School Board is responsible for developing its own list of allergy-related foods. There are no bans — only requests that certain foods not be taken to school.
"Our real focus is on information, education and then avoidance strategies," said Doug Hadley, a spokesman for the school board.
Lee Simms, whose Grade 2 son is allergic to tree nuts and peanuts, said she's had a lot of support from other parents.
"There's always that worry in the back of my mind that someone's going to have forgotten or someone's going to have contamination on them so it's very, very stressful as a parent," she said.