Crittenden County Elementary School is latest school in area to restrict nuts to protect the health of those with nut allergies

This story has been updated to include information about other Western Kentucky schools with nut restrictions.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a lunchbox staple for many American children, but they can also pose a serious health risk to those with peanut and tree-nut allergies, especially in the young. The risk has prompted the Crittenden County school district to become the latest in the area to restrict the use of nuts at the Crittenden County Elementary School in Marion.

“Peanut and tree nut allergies plague an estimated 19 million Americans and the number of children with peanut allergies in the U.S. has nearly doubled in just over a decade,” The Crittenden Press noted.

After researching the issue and how other schools have dealt with it, the school’s parent-teacher council and wellness committee created a policy that restricts but doesn’t ban nuts, the Press reports.

The policy asks everyone to be aware that nut products are dangerous to some of the students and asks them to not send those products to school, Principal Melissa Tabor told the Press. She said at least five students have proven nut allergies.

Several other Western Kentucky schools have peanut restrictions,Genevieve Postlethwait reports for The Paducah Sun, including Carlisle County and Fulton County schools, with Paducah and Hickman County schools having restricted peanuts for varying periods of time in the past. (Story is behind a pay wall.)

“We do it on a case-by-case, year-by-year basis,” Penny Holt,the district’s nutrition director, told Postlethwait of Paducah schools’ approach to restricting peanuts and other allergens. “If a child has an allergy that is that serious, we’re not going to risk it,” she said, noting that they are seeing an increase in all kinds of food allergies.

Another school, Heath Elementary, has a child with an airborne peanut allergy so the school does not serve any peanut products or cook with any peanut products, Sara Jane Hedges, food services director for McCracken County schools. told Postlethwait. Students are still allowed to bring peanut butter products, but ” “It’s just taken care of very carefully,” Hedges said.

Crittenden County Elementary school’s policy does not require school personnel to check backpacks or lunchboxes for nut-containing products, but if they see children have one of these products, they ask them to sit at a designated table for that day, where they can ask a friend to join them.

The school sent home a list of nut-free snacks, including safe name brands that do not contain peanut oil, to help parents re-think what to pack in their child’s lunch or to send for school snacks or for school parties.

So far, the principal said, parents have been receptive to the policy, and one parent told her that they had successfully switched to a soy butter that tastes like peanut butter because their child wants peanut-butter sandwiches for lunch.

The policy states that those with severe allergies to peanuts or nut products may be at great risk of anaphylactic shock, “an allergic reaction causing swelling, difficulty breathing, itching, unconsciousness, circulatory collapse and sometimes death,” if they ingest or are exposed to these products.

“Because of the possibility of cross-contamination, a campus-wide, comprehensive avoidance of foods containing nuts was deemed to be the best solution to reduce the health risks to students with allergens,” Tabor told the Press.

Crittenden County School Supt. Vince Clark told the weekly newspaper that he supports the school’s policy, despite the argument that it creates a burden to parents of students who love peanut butter.

“There are valid points on each side of the issue,” he told the Press. “Ultimately, we have to support efforts to offer a safer learning environment for the children.” (Read more)

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