Predisposed to danger

Header image for the article Predisposed to danger Credit: JESSICA THOMPSON
Fanshawe's Oasis makes sure to mark their food carefully to guarantee that people with food allergies or intolerances know what to choose and what is safe to eat.

Why food safety policies at Canadian schools may not be safe enough

Andrea Mariano, an 18-yearold Psychology student attending Queen’s University in Kingston died of an anaphylactic allergic reaction on Sept. 18 after buying a smoothie from an unknown vendor at the university, according to an article by Global News.

Mariano had an extreme allergy to peanuts and dairy. According to her family, Mariano informed those around her of these food allergies with discipline and was always careful to remember to have with her at all times a set of epinephrine auto-injectors, also known as an EpiPen, so she could receive an emergency injection of medicine to treat a life threatening allergic reaction.

Tragically, Mariano did not have the injector on her when she drank the smoothie on Sept. 15. Mariano was rushed to Kingston General Hospital where she died four days later.

Darby Watterworth, a Fanshawe student studying Business Logistics and Supply Chain Management also struggles with severe food allergies.

She is lactose intolerant and has celiac disease, a digestive disorder where gluten cannot be consumed without causing damage to the intestine, according to WebMD.

Her dairy and gluten free diet severely limits which restaurants operating inside the school she is able to order food at.

“I have found that Oasis is the only place I can eat at because Tim Hortons, Pizza Pizza, Subway and the Out Back Shack have no alternatives.”

If she wants to eat out, Watterworth must first deal with the hassle of preliminary research. “For most fast food, I read up on the food information packages that they have available either online or in paper form,” she said. Watterworth does not have emergency medication in case she makes a mistake. “If I am unsure if the food is safe for me to eat, I just don’t risk it,” she said.

The death of Andrea Mariano has caused universities across Canada to question the adequacy of current food safety and food allergy policies and practices.

“We pray that good will come from this tragedy and that this will lead to greater sensitivity for people who suffer from allergies,” the Mariano family said in a statement reported by the Toronto Sun. Accordingly, Queen’s University, the University of Alberta and Western University in London have all made it their intention to review their food safety and food allergy policies and practices.

Ismael Viegas, the hospitality services manager for Fanshawe Student Union (FSU) said management has met to review and update food allergy procedures and protocols to ensure the safety of all students who eat at FSU restaurants. They are even considering stocking an EpiPen in first aid kits.

Viegas emphasizes the importance of open communication between food handlers and students.

“The most serious issue here is to convey to our patrons how important it is that they communicate with our food experts not only to prevent such tragedies as these from reoccurring but so that these food service leaders understand the needs of our guests,” Viegas said.

Watterworth said these changes are just one step in the right direction in order to keep Fanshawe students with food allergies and intolerances safe.

“I think the school could be more accommodating by either having more gluten free options available or taking what options that are currently there and labelling them as gluten free so there is more awareness,” Watterworth said.

The idea that restaurants should have more obvious food allergy warnings and advertisements for alternative food options isn’t unique to Fanshawe College campus. According to CKWS TV, students at Queen’s University have been vocal supporters of such an initiative. Additionally, as Global News reports, the University of Calgary has already produced and distributed a new food allergy awareness poster, and York University in Toronto has begun to reinforce the importance of such signage with their restaurant tenants.

As CBC News has pointed out, Queen’s University has lowered its flags to half-mast and will be hosting a memorial service on campus.