Avoiding allergens on campus a challenge
CATHERINE RYCZAK, CONTRIBUTOR
One in 13 Canadians — or 2.5 million people — has a food allergy, according to a recent study by AllerGen.
Many elementary and high schools are allergy aware, encouraging students to leave allergens like nuts, fish and seafood at home. But on a college campus, it’s not that simple.
Janet Adamana, a digital media design student at RRC, is allergic to tree nuts, peanuts, seeds and seafood. She wears a medic alert bracelet to prove it. She said she brings a bagged lunch to school every day so she knows exactly what she’s eating.
“Trying new foods or going to restaurants is difficult,” she said. “I would give anything to be able to try all the new places and be more experimental with my food, but a lot of the ingredients are ones I am allergic to. This leads to having to order something safe and plain like french fries or not attending a dinner outing at all.”
Jonathan Royal, the chef of Food Services at RRC, said he teaches culinary arts students to take precautions when cooking with allergens. But he said RRC can’t eliminate risks in its kitchens because common allergens – like milk or eggs – are important ingredients.
“The allergy issue here is quite difficult because we are a school, and we have all of these allergens within our halls,” Royal said. “We can never guarantee zero contaminants or cross contamination, but we definitely will make everything as carefully as possible.”
Royal said RRC is creating a reference binder so people can look up ingredient lists for specific menu items. For now, stickers on Grab N Go items list any allergens.
“Our goal for labeling and packing is to have a full list of ingredients available on our grab and go items,” Royal said. “Regardless of precautions, students with an allergy should carry an EpiPen and be aware.”
Red River College Students’ Assocation president Benjamin McDonald said dealing with allergies falls to different departments and their policies within the college.
“We have had no requests from students to lobby the administration on their behalf or to have it brought to us via concern form or through a board member,” McDonald said. “It’s not something we are working on at all.”