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Nassau County Legislator Joshua Lafazan Introduces Food Allergy Restaurant Safety Law

Flanked by colleagues in government and food allergy awareness advocates on the front steps of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building, Nassau County Legislator Joshua Lafazan (Woodbury) on Monday, July 15 unveiled a series of reforms aimed at educating consumers and food service professionals about food allergies and how to identify, respond to and prevent incidents.

Legislator Lafazan’s proposal would require Nassau County restaurants to designate no fewer than two employees as food safety officers. Those employees would undergo online food allergen training as directed by the Nassau County Department of Health. Upon being notified that a patron has a food allergy or is experiencing an allergic reaction, those trained employees would initiate a response plan. A food safety officer must be on premises during all hours of operation. Certification would be valid for five years upon completion of training.

In addition, Legislator Lafazan’s proposal would direct restaurants to post allergy-awareness signage in food preparation and dining areas. Those signs would direct customers to alert staff members of allergies, and would also identify major food allergens, common symptoms of an allergic reaction, instructions for serving customers with food allergies and actions to take in case of an allergic reaction.

Non-compliance with the ordinance would be punishable by a fine of $50 to $500 per violation.

“The parents I stand with here today can speak to the daily rigors and difficulties of raising and protecting a child with food allergies. These parents, their children, and all who experience food allergies deserve our attention, our urgency, and our action,” Legislator Lafazan said. “Inclusivity is about ensuring that no matter an individual’s personal set of circumstances, their government will respond to meet the needs of their challenges.”

According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), approximately 32 million Americans have food allergies. Approximately 5.6 million of those afflicted are children. Approximately 40 percent of those youngsters are allergic to more than one food.

“With the growing number of our population being affected by life-threatening or severe food-related allergies, it is critical that our food service providers be educated; conscientious; safe; and empathetic,” said Tracy Frankel, President of the Syosset School Board and a parent of a child with food allergies. “I am grateful that Legislator Lafazan is not only shedding a necessary light on this issue, but that he has drafted a bill that will require food service providers to be trained; responsive; appropriately and specifically staffed to address allergy concerns; and more transparent as to the actions they will take when informed about customer allergies.”

Jonathan Grossman, a Syosset resident who will attend Cornell University in the fall, was born with severe peanut and tree allergies and, in 2012, was diagnosed with Celiac disease. Two weeks ago, he was hospitalized after eating pizza he was told was gluten- and nut-free; the cheese topping, however, was cashew-based.

“After just one bite, my throat started to swell, massive welts started to develop on my body, and my skin became uncontrollably itchy. I was going through an allergic reaction,” Grossman said. “We need this bill so all restaurants in this county know everything about food allergies, the foods they are cooking with, and how to handle the occurrence of an allergic reaction. We need this bill so people who have allergies do not end up in the hospital like I did two weeks ago.”

Restaurants that opt to direct all employees to complete food allergen awareness training and pass an online test provided by the Nassau County Department of Health will be eligible to be designated an “Allergen Friendly Restaurant” and awarded an official seal from the Nassau County Department of Health to display on the restaurant’s website, menu or promotional materials. The Health Department would publish and maintain a list of all certified allergen-friendly restaurants.

Upon ratification of Legislator Lafazan’s proposal, Rustan Lundstrum, owner of the Coach Grill & Tavern in Oyster Bay, said his establishment plans to waste little time in becoming certified.

“Families deserve to go out to eat and not worry that their children could get sick and wind up in the hospital. When this legislation is adopted, we at the Coach Grill will proudly be the first restaurant in line to opt in to this amazing and important program so that our friends and guests feel safe when they visit us,” he said.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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