Poll: School meals trigger allergies in some

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japanese girlJAPAN - More than 300 cases of allergic reaction to food served in school lunches occur annually, according to the first nationwide survey conducted by Sagamihara National Hospital and the School Dietician Conference of Japan.

Though the survey found no fatal cases, 4.7 percent of students who suffered were hospitalized, with 59 percent of primary and middle school students who had allergic reactions treated in hospitals.

The results illustrate the importance of measures to prevent allergic reactions to food in school lunches, the national hospital organization in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, and the Tokyo-based conference said.

The dietitian conference also decided to make a pamphlet about points to remember when providing school lunch to students with food allergies in the next fiscal year.

The organizations conducted the survey on food allergy cases in school lunches in fiscal 2002 and 2003 by sending questionnaires to facilities cooking for schools across the nation.

In the 2002 academic year, 10,190 of the facilities, or about 70 percent, responded. In the 2003 academic year, 9,018 of them replied.

The results of the survey show there were 637 cases of allergic reaction to food over the two-year period. Excluding summer recess and other vacation periods, the figure equates to more than 1.5 cases a day.

Fruit was ranked top as the cause of food allergies, accounting for 20.3 percent of the cases, with about 70 percent of these caused by kiwifruit.

It was followed by 18.8 percent caused by shellfish and 11.9 percent caused by dairy products.

The majority of allergic reactions, 68.4 percent, were hives and other skin abnormalities. In 7.2 percent of the cases, students suffered anaphylactic shock, which can cause breathing difficulties resulting in death.

Among 436 cases in which the causes were identified, 142 cases, or 32.6 percent, were because foodstuffs containing allergens were mistakenly used.

In 39 of the cases, or 8.9 percent, the accidents were caused because the school lunch providers did not take any measures to remove potential allergens.

The two organizations said measures seemed to be insufficient in facilities cooking for schools.

Takanori Imai, a pediatrician at the hospital and researcher of children's allergies, said, "In about 60 percent of the cases in which the causes were identified, the students had not been diagnosed to have food allergies before the accidents."

"It's impossible to predict such cases. We have to make all schools fully aware of the risk," he said.

source - Yomiuri