Food Allergy Sufferers Live in
Fear of Restaurants, Expert Says
Gongwer News Service, May 15, 2006
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Families that include people with severe food allergies often
live in fear of going out to a restaurant only to wind up in the
emergency room, something those without allergies take for
granted, the Michigan House Regulatory Reform Committee was told
Karen Sabuda, whose daughter Mary has a severe peanut allergy,
said she always calls ahead to restaurants, talks with the chefs
about the oils they cook food in and leaves if she thinks there
is the slightest chance that her daughter's food will be
contaminated with even trace amounts of peanuts. She added that
restaurant employees were often unable to tell her if their food
contained peanuts, or was cooked in peanut oil.
"This is our life," Ms. Sabuda said. "We read product labels.
Bread labels are particularly difficult to read, but this is our
Anne Russell, food allergy program coordinator at the University
of Michigan, said that her office deals with young children who
have had allergic reactions while out to eat and are now afraid
"It's a place that creates a minefield for these people," Ms.
Their testimony was in support of HB 6020, sponsored by Rep.
Barbara Farrah (D-Southgate), which would require restaurants to
place a notice on their menus informing customers that they will
try to accommodate anyone with food allergies.
The bill would also require the Department of Agriculture to
provide restaurants with information about the top eight food
allergens which together account for 90 percent of food-related
But Andy Deloney, public affairs director for the Michigan
Restaurant Association, told the committee that the bill was
unnecessary because the Department of Agriculture will be
convening a group to work the federal 2005 Food Law into
Michigan's food code in June. The code currently incorporates
the 1999 Food Law, which doesn't mention allergies, but the new
law calls for a committee to study the issue of allergens in
food service, Mr. Deloney said.
"We'd prefer to deal with these issues in a more comprehensive
manner," Mr. Deloney said, rather than have the DOA group
recommendation and two to three separate bills.
In addition, Mr. Deloney said the costs of updating every menu
at every restaurant in the state are prohibitive, and several
restaurants have been cited because they follow the spirit of
the law but struggle with the details.
"Having a mandate that places this (warning) on the menu doesn't
really solve their problem," he said.
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