Maryland Considers Restaurant Allergy Awareness Bill

By Jane Wolkowicz, Delight Editorial Assistant 

A Food Allergy Awareness Bill is working its way through Maryland’s house and senate this month.

If it passes, restaurants in Maryland would be required to follow a series of new requirements, including prominently displaying a poster for staff explaining how to recognize an allergic reaction and designating a member of their staff to be a “food allergy expert” after watching a series of training videos.

Restaurants who don’t already have a “customers with allergies should inform the staff” disclaimer on their menus would have to include one. And the designated “expert” at each restaurant would be required to watch training videos approved by the Restaurant Association of Maryland and the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and be knowledgeable about food preparation and cross-contamination techniques.

The bill passing would be a victory for those who suffer from food allergies and have trouble eating out. In Massachusetts, similar laws were passed in 2011 and have already been a positive change for allergy sufferers in that state.

However, back in Maryland, the state’s Restaurant Association says it wants more information before the new rules would go into effect.

Melvin Thompson, the Maryland Restaurant Association’s senior vice president of government affairs and public policy, said in a statement that he wants to conduct studies and focus groups and find out exactly how often restaurants get requests for allergy-safe food.

“We don’t even know in Maryland how much of an issue this is,” he said.

Still, Maryland State Delegate Sheila Hixson says she will continue to sponsor the bill despite the association’s hesitation because she has a number of constituents with food allergies who are pushing for this type of legislation.

“I personally had e-coli and can’t eat any leafy vegetables, which is something I know is easy to detect,” she says. “But I know people are allergic to ingredients that are unseen and if they don’t know about them, they can get very ill.”

Read more about the proposed bill on the Maryland Food Allergy Awareness Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/ZebyvX


2 comments (Add your own)

1. Connie wrote:
Great idea!!! Should be a Federal law so that all consumers have the same protection everywhere. But one step at a time is a good start.

Thu, March 7, 2013 @ 11:39 PM

2. Maureen Burke wrote:
One Dish Cuisine Cafe, Deli and Bakery in Ellicott City, MD (Gluten and Allergen Free) has been pushing this from the start and testified before the house and senate trying to get this law passed in Maryland. The problem with the way the law is proposed is that it only address the top 8 food allergens, not gluten. We have asked that Maryland include Gluten in the law. We are asking that restaurants keep full ingredient lists that are available to customers and that they have formal food allergy training. The Maryland Dept of Health supports the law, however the restaurant association lobbied hard for a study because they don't think there is enough need for allergen/gluten free meals.
So, they will study this for about a year or so...we shall see.

Wed, May 8, 2013 @ 6:27 PM

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