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One child in each class can't eat the school lunch!

School lunch in Japan places importance on nutritional balance, and as a result, in most cases, everyone in the same class is served the same lunch menu. This can present a serious problem for children with food allergies.

On April 11, 2007, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology announced the results of the "National Survey of Allergic Disorders." This was the first survey regarding food allergies of all students in public elementary, junior high, and senior high schools. According to the survey, 329,423 or 2.6% of all the students reported having a food allergy. If we suppose that one class has 40 students, this means that one student in each class has a food allergy. Clearly, food allergies are an issue that school lunches must now take into consideration.

To begin with, I would like to propose three perspectives for thinking about food allergies and school lunch.

1. Anti-allergy measures by schools
In the above survey, 80.9% of the schools replied that their school lunch took food allergies into consideration. Nevertheless, not all were able to remove the food causing the allergy from the menu and provide a nutritious substitute. At most, some schools could only have students bring their lunch from home or have the student's family contact the school if the menu included a food that would cause an allergic reaction. This is because serving a substitute dish requires calculating nutritional content, different cooking techniques, and extra staff.

2. Psychological care for children
There is concern that children with food allergies will be subject to bullying by their peers. Furthermore, asking children with food allergies to bring their lunch from home can cause them to suffer psychologically because they are marked as different from children who eat the school lunch. This indicates that special psychological care is necessary to prevent adverse effects on emotional and social development.

3. Response to allergic reactions
In the above survey, only 68.3% of the schools answered that teachers have a common understanding of how to respond when a student has an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction can be life-threatening. Schools must ensure that teachers share a correct understanding of food allergies and thoroughly implement a system of emergency response to allergic reactions.

The number of children with food allergies is increasing, making it difficult for schools to respond properly in terms of staff, care, understanding, and systems of response to the growing problem. We need to promptly implement measures that manage all aspects of the problem to ensure that all children can enjoy a safe and nutritious lunch.
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