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Legislator Spencer, Advocates and Restaurateurs Gather to Promote Food Allergy Friendly Program for Suffolk Establishments

With research showing the prevalence of severe food allergy increasing among children; Legislator Spencer partners with local advocates to make dining out safer for impacted families.

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Suffolk County Legislator William R. Spencer.

Photo by: Office of Suffolk County Legislator William R. Spencer

Huntington Village, NY - October 30, 2018 - With as many as 15 million Americans living with food allergies and nearly 6 million of them children under the age of 18; Suffolk County passed a local law to improve food allergy safety and awareness at local restaurants. Legislator Spencer, joined by families impacted by severe allergies, the owners of RED Restaurant, who will be participating in the program, and other government officials held a press conference today at RED to raise awareness of food allergy safety and discussed the details of Suffolk County’s “Food Allergy Friendly Program.”
“This local law will begin to improve safety for all diners. It will benefit families eager to find restaurants that can accommodate their needs and will also provide an opportunity for restaurants to capture this growing market,” stated Legislator William R. Spencer.
The local law includes mandatory and voluntary components. The mandatory provision requires that food service establishments shall include on all menu boards a notice that reads: “Before placing your order, please inform your server if a person in your party has a food allergy.” The voluntary provision will offer restaurants a Food Allergy Friendly designation and, in part, requires the following criteria:
  1. Sign(s) and/or poster(s) approved by the Department must be prominently displayed in the staff area.
  2. There must be at least one manager on duty at all times of operation who is certified in food allergen safety.
  3. The maintenance on premises of a current list of ingredients used in the preparation of each food item available for consumption to be made available to the public (the diners) upon request, accompanied by disclaimers stating that “ingredient changes and substitutions may occur due to differences in regional suppliers, recipe revisions, preparation techniques, and/or the season of the year”.  
Owners of RED, Nino Antuzzi and Kelley Danek, hosted the press conference and will be coordinating with the county to participate in the “Food Allergy Friendly Program.” Nino Antuzzi, who shared about his daughter’s food allergies, stated, “I’m happy to support this important effort.”
Jennifer Levinson, a vocal advocate for families impacted by food allergies stated, “As a mother of two children who are severely allergic to nuts, this topic is very personal to me and my family and we are not alone. Over the years we have learned to take precautions, but our greatest challenge is always eating out. The awareness that will come from this bill is the beginning of meaningful change.”
Jennifer’s daughter Gabriella spoke about her experiences, “I am severely allergic to peanuts and tree nuts and when I was 15 I almost died from anaphylactic shock. I was in a restaurant with my mother when it happened; I was accidentally exposed to nuts due to cross contamination. A year later my friend went into anaphylaxis at a sweet 16 we attended together. It was a similar situation: another case of cross contamination. I was upset at the lack of knowledge on the part of the restaurant staff and I wanted to do something about it. I reached out to Dr. Spencer, told him what had happened to me and my friend, and he agreed there needed to be a big push for education on food allergens, especially in restaurants.  Together we drafted a bill that would help make dining experiences safer for food allergy sufferers here in Suffolk County.”
Establishments wishing to be designated as Food Allergy Friendly must contact the Department’s Bureau of Public Health Protection at (631) 852-5999 to review their Food Allergy Friendly qualifications and schedule a site visit prior to inclusion on the Department’s website.