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  • 29 Jan 2015

    Allergens in arts and crafts materials. Should we be worried?

    Posted: 29 Jan 2015

    The #oddspots competition that I ran back in June last year, was a real eye opener. Who knew that allergens can lurk in jam, shampoo and clothes?

    As I plug away at creating the online allergy workshop for schools, I'm finding more allergens in odd places. Specifically in arts and crafts materials that might be used in schools. For instance you probably know about wheat in some brands of modelling dough and you might have asked your child's teacher to keep your child away from 'pasta art'. But what about casein (milk protein) in low powder chalk? Or soyabean oil in crayons?

    It got me thinking. Could materials used in the classroom trigger allergic reactions? I slipped on my deerstalker, grabbed my imaginary Watson and set off to investigate. First stop: Anaphylaxis Campaign. They've produced a factsheet that looks at the issue of allergens in non-food products, specifically in cosmetics, medicines and toiletries. As I found with the #oddspot competition, they list allergens that lurk in unlikely places and urge readers to be aware. So should we all be panicking? No, just cautious.

    It's worth pointing out that very little research has been done into whether allergens in non-food items can actually cause an allergic reaction. Some items may have been heavily-processed, and therefore removing the protein that causes an allergic reaction. 

    But is there still a risk? The advice given by Anaphylaxis Campaign is sound: "Because uncertainty remains with regard to many products, our advice is to play safe and avoid any product that contains a food ingredient to which you are allergic."

    I agree!

    So in the interests of being cautious, I'm creating a list for teachers that will accompany my online allergy workshop. It highlights problem ingredients in arts and crafts materials, and suggests safe alternatives. Roll out the plastic buttons instead of pasta shape art!

    The good news. As I trawled the internet for arts and crafts materials that are free from the top 14 allergens, I found Brian Clegg's wonderful website of artiness. Bingo! After checking with the helpful Bernard and Lara who both work there, I can confirm: "All of our manufactured products do not contain the 14 Allergens."

    Boom. Brian Clegg's products make it onto my list of resources for teachers. Loving the fact their website clearly labels products as wheat and gluten free. Hopefully I can nudge them to write a statement on their site, mentioning their products are free from the top 14 allergens too?

    Have you found allergens in arts and crafts materials? Do you use a trusted allergy-friendly supplier? I'd love to hear what you've found. Please let me know in the comments below and I can add them to my safe list for teachers, or you can always find me on Twitter or Facebook. 

    More heads are better than one ;)

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