Thursday, August 29, 2013

Food Allergy Bill For Restaurants

Some states, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maryland, have enacted bills in the past two years, in an effort to make dining out at restaurants safer for food allergy customers.  The bills general require that the restaurant post signs requiring patrons to inform the restaurant of any food allergies, that the food preparation and sanitation certification process include a video on food allergies, that posters about food allergies be displayed in the food preparation area, and that restaurants can choose to be designated as "allergy friendly" by complying with certain requirements.

The feedback on these laws on other allergy blogs and websites seems to be that they are a great step in the right direction, but they do not go far enough.  Illinois has a very similar bill pending in the state senate right now.  Tomorrow, I have a meeting with Senator Cunningham and hopefully Representative Burke to discuss the pending bill.  The Illinois Senate Bill 0037 is available here.  Senate Bill 0037

While it is extremely important that the government do something to educate restaurants and food preparers about food allergies, it seems like the only material improvement as a result of this proposed law would be the food allergy friendly designation-- if it's done right.  Some criticisms of the other laws enacted is that the allergy friendly designation may lull the customer into a false sense of safety at a restaurant because the requirements are not tight enough.  Another criticism was that the requirement for every restaurant (not just designated allergy friendly restaurants) to place on their menu that customers should inform staff about food allergies, causes customers to interpret such a note as "wow, this restaurant is aware of food allergy issues," when in fact, the restaurant may not be safe at all.  The designation should better read "State law requires that we inform customers that they should tell restaurant staff of food allergies." 

So, tomorrow at my meeting, I will be giving a long list of suggestions for requirements a restaurant must meet in order to win the title "allergy friendly" (some of which I admittedly borrowed from comments on other websites related to other laws), including:
1.       Staff takes food allergies seriously, is courteous and treats customers with respect.

2.       Mandatory training for all staff for:

a.       understand food allergies and anaphylaxis;

b.      cross contamination and how to prevent it;

c.       restaurant procedures for handling food allergic customer’s orders, including who is the designated person to handle the orders and the duties of that designated person in preparing the food.

d.      Staff trained in food allergy emergency plan- call 911, how to use epinephrine, etc.

3.       Formal training and certification, which has periodic renewal.

4.       Employee who answers the phone is knowledgeable about ingredients and food allergy procedures in restaurant.

5.       For sit down restaurants, a way to designate a food allergy table when it is reserved and option to take customer’s phone number so chef can call ahead of time.

6.       Staff able to clearly communicate the food allergy policy to customer.

7.       Manager or chef willing to visit food allergy customer’s table to discuss meal before ordering.

8.       Clear protocol for communication of food allergies from front of house to chef.

9.       Means to designate that a specific dish is a food allergy order.

10.   For food allergy orders, designation of one person to take order, prepare food and deliver food to customer.

11.   Any written orders have clear and obvious food allergy notice.

12.   Staff willing to take guidance from customer about how to prepare food if necessary.

13.   Separate cleaned and prep areas for food allergy orders.

14.   Separate cookware for each food allergy order.

15.   Before each food allergy order preparation, wash hands and/or change gloves.

16.   Option to get a state designation or certification of a restaurant which does not use specific allergens, where allergen is not on the premises at all-  ie peanut free restaurant, milk and egg free (vegan) restaurant.

17.   Allergy menus available, with symbols of which items contain each of top 8 allergens.

18.   Ingredient list for each menu item available, including cooking oils and other things fried in deep fryers with item.

19.   Online menus and ingredients available.

If anyone reading this blog has any further suggestions, I would love to hear them.  Hopefully, I get a good reception from the legislators tomorrow and I will definitely post an update. 


  1. Feeling inspired to get similar legislation in the works here in NC. Am very curious to hear how your meeting went with the legislators and look forward to your update.

  2. As a parent of a child w/a severe food allergy, I am very passionate about advocating. While we're relatively new to this "group" (only going on 13 months since our diagnosis), I have been successful in advocating in many ways:

    -Got our local mayor to sign a proclamation acknowledging Food Allergy Awareness Week 2013
    -Got our local library to acknowledge FAAW with a presentation on food allergies
    -Created a Food Allergy Awareness Committee on our school's PTO (which unfortunately was shut down after a year by the District office)
    -Was interviewed for a 2 page article about food allergies for a local newspaper
    -Have been writing to state Senators and Representatives to highlight food allergies and the need for more awareness and education; most recently writing to Senator Duffy and Representative Sullivan to encourage them to include the topic of food allergies during their Child Health and Safety events in IL.

    Other areas I'd love to advocate for are restaurant food allergy awareness as well as awareness in traveling (airlines specifically). So this blog post piques my interest. Are Senator Cunningham and Representative Burke the people to contact about this pending legislation? I was just talking with my husband recently about the Food Allergy Bill in MA and how I'd love that in IL. I would love to help people advocate and stand behind this pending bill, which I had no idea was being deliberated!

    Thanks for any insight and direction on this one.

  3. I would love to talk to you more about your progress on this. Perhaps we can set up a time to talk. @FoodAllergyGal

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