I recently read an article out of New Hampshire, where a state senator has introduced legislation to require restaurants to become more knowledgeable about food allergies – but could it help those of us in the celiac community? In this case, I wonder how strict the law and subsequently the restaurants would be about the term food allergy? Would gluten be part of it, since it is not considered one of the eight top food allergens (milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish and shellfish).
Food Allergy Bill
In the report at seacoastonline.com, it wasn’t clear what exactly would be considered a food allergy, but the actual legislation is intriguing. According to the article, State Senator Lou D’Allesandro in New Hampshire is working on a draft of legislation which would “…require all restaurants to prominently display a poster about food allergy awareness in the staff area…” and include on menus a notice that a customer must “…inform the server about any food allergies.”
It also proposes the state Department of Public Health “…develop a voluntary program that allows restaurants to be designated as ‘Food Allergy Friendly’ by the department.” If the restaurant meets the state guidelines for designation, “…it must include a list of all the ingredients used in the preparation of each food item on the menu.”
Wow, it is an impressive proposal to be sure. What’s more it’s not the first state to try to do this: the Massachusetts Senate passed a similar measure but as of yet has not passed the State House. It is this bill the New Hampshire proposal is modeled after.
Other states have also become more aware of food allergies. The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network has provided good updates on its site about the different states and what they’re trying to do to raise more awareness about food allergies. On its website you will find information on other pieces of legislation regarding food allergies
Handling the Gluten Issue
But as we all know, gluten -so far- is not officially considered a top food allergen to the United States Government. Which is why I am wondering if these pieces of state legislation will cover the gluten-free diet? I would like to think, at the very least, the requirements in these bills will raise some awareness about parts of our diet, since a wheat allergy would be highlighted.
One thing we have going for us in the celiac community, is that many restaurants are already acknowledging the gluten-free diet and creating menus. This allows us to get out once and a while for a good meal. As for legislation, we continue to wait for the Food and Drug Administration to issue its ruling on gluten-free labeling. Once this happens, maybe more significant changes will come everywhere else: at school, restaurants, catered events and of course at home with our labeled products. Let’s hope for the best for folks affected by the food-allergy legislation in various states and see what is to come for celiacs.