Technology & Science

Ontario passes allergy law for schools

Ontario becomes first province requiring teachers to recognize symptoms of acute allergic reactions and know how to treat them.

Ontario has become the first Canadian province requiring public school teachers to be trained to recognize the symptoms of acute allergic reactions and know how to treat them.

Called "Sabrina's Law," the legislation means publicly funded schools must also educate students about anaphylactic shock from allergies and establish response procedures, including how to use epinephrine injectors. The needles, commonly called EpiPens, deliver a shot of potentially life-saving medication.

School boards must have:

  • Regular training for staff on dealing with allergies.
  • Individual files for students with an anaphylaxis allergy.
  • Emergency procedures in place for those students.
  • Storage for emergency EpiPens.
Parents would also be obliged to alert the school of a child's allergies.

The legislation is named after 13-year-old Sabrina Shannon, who died from an allergic reaction in 2003. The teenager from Pembroke, Ont., had eaten fries contaminated with a dairy product.

A member of the Ontario legislature, Dave Levac, introduced the private member's bill. He said the government is trying to make sure "everyone is aware of the steps they need to take to arrest the chances of someone getting an anaphylactic reaction."

Sabrina's parents watched in the Ontario legislature as the law was passed.

"Many countries are watching this now," said Sabrina's mother, Sara Shannon. "Now that they're calling it Sabrina's Law, it's something to be proud of."

Britain and the United States are monitoring the legislation, said Levac.

Across the country, as many as 60,000 people are at risk from some form of food allergy. Laurie Harada, executive director of Anaphylaxis Canada, says it's not just a school issue.

"It's a public health issue ... so it's definitely a growing concern," said Harada.

The law will take effect Jan. 1.