Your responsibilities

Schools must provide a free meal for all children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. This means your school may need to cater individually for children with special dietary needs. A special diet could be due to an allergy, intolerance or other medical need, because children are following a religious or cultural diet, or for other reasons, like a child who’s vegetarian.

You are expected to take reasonable steps to cater for allergies and special diets as part of your school meals service. We recommend that you develop a policy and have a clear procedure to make sure all requests for a special diet are handled efficiently and appropriately. It’s good practice for these requirements to be written into any contracts with your caterers. Catering providers and local authorities may already have policies and procedures in place.

Since December 2014, your school has had a legal responsibility to provide correct and consistent information about allergens in the food you prepare and serve. This means you must be able to tell pupils and parents which of 14 different allergens are included in each recipe and food item you provide. By doing this, you’ll help children with allergies make sure they’re choosing options which are suitable for them.

This means you or your caterers will need to think about the ingredients used in each dish prepared, and check which allergens are present in each ingredient, for example by checking product labels or specifications or by checking with suppliers.