Sabrinas Law (Peanut Allergies)

On September 30, 2003, Sabrina Shannon who had just started her Grade 8 year, died tragically in hospital following an anaphylactic reaction.  Sabrina had been responsible about her allergies, asking the right questions before eating, always carrying her EpiPen in her backpack, along with the puffer for her asthma.

The day before she died, Sabrina and her friend went to the cafeteria, where Sabrina ordered french fries.  As a part of her routine, she made sure that the fries were cooked in vegetable rather than peanut oil. In the class after lunch, Sabrina began to wheeze. Thinking she was having an asthma attack, Sabrina headed for the school office at the other end of the building. By the time she got there, Sabrina was in trouble, and kept repeating “it’s my asthma!” A teacher raced to Sabrina’s locker to get her EpiPen in case it was her food allergies. School officials called an ambulance but in the meantime, Sabrina collapsed and lost consciousness, going into cardiac arrest before the ambulance arrived and before the EpiPen could be administered.

Later it would be determined that her devastating condition was the result of anaphylaxis due to food allergy. The coroner posited that the allergic trigger was dairy protein, which Sabrina would have been exposed to through cross-contamination from tongs used to lift her fries. Those same tongs had been used to serve orders accompanied by poutine, the side dish of gravy and melted cheese curds. She would have been allergic to the curds. On September 30, a day after her reaction, Sabrina was removed from life support and died.

The Law

Almost a year after Sabrina’s death, Dr.Andrew McCallum, the chief coroner for Eastern Ontario, called for the implementation of comprehensive anaphylaxis management plans in Ontario schools.  The law which took effect January 1, 2006, requires Ontario school boards to have all principals implement anaphylaxis plans which include:

  • Strategies to reduce exposure to allergens
  • Procedures to communicate to parents, students and employees about life-threatening allergies
  • Regular training on dealing with life threatening allergies for teachers and staff.

In addition, principals are required to:

  • Develop an individual plan for each student at risk of anaphylaxis
  • Maintain a file that lists that students prescriptions and emergency contacts
  • Ensure that parents enrolling pupils supply information on a child’s allergies.

Sabrina’s Law is now drawing attention in other Canadian provinces as well as the U.S.

Further Information

Standard First Aid courses are a great resource for learning more about allergic reactions.  F.A.S.T. Rescue has designed a program for all schools which meets the needs of schools in terms of anaphylaxis awareness and procedures.  For further information, contact us.

Lets ensure that no other children are exposed to hidden dangers in the environments that they should be safe in!


Ontario Ministry of Education

Allergic Living

This information is offered as information only and is designed to promote Health & Safety in the workplace and the community. It is subject to change.

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