Food Allergy Restaurant Training Bill Unanimously Passes in Westchester County, NY
Legislation is a Win-Win for Food Allergy Families and Restaurant Owners
May 26, 2022 (McLean, VA) – In a huge boost to the food allergy community, the Westchester County (NY) Board of Legislators unanimously passed the Food Allergy Restaurant Safety bill on May 23, ensuring that restaurants have on-site personnel with specific training in food allergy safety. The bill, co-sponsored by Legislator Vedat Gashi (D) and Minority Leader Margaret Cunzio (C), was the result of efforts by food allergy advocates and Westchester County residents, Stacey and Jared Saiontz, Patty and Sara Albert, and Zachary Kornblum, as well as FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education).
Specifically, the bill requires food allergy training approved by the County Health Department as well as posted restaurant signage certifying completion of the training. In addition, signs must be posted identifying the nine major food allergies, as well as the symptoms of an allergic reaction and appropriate steps to take in case of a reaction.
“This legislation is both lifesaving and life-altering,” said Dr. Sung Poblete, CEO of FARE. “Food allergy sufferers can now dine out in Westchester County with greater comfort knowing their food allergies are taken seriously and that trained personnel are on-hand in the event of an emergency. We will continue our efforts to advocate on behalf of the food allergy community across the country for similar bills to protect the food allergic,” she continued.
Westchester County food allergy advocate Stacey Saiontz put the new legislation in perspective saying, “This bill will impact the approximately 94,000 individuals in Westchester with life-threatening food allergies, and will make Westchester restaurants more appealing to the nearly 2 million New Yorkers who also suffer from food allergies.” Saiontz and her son Jared, who lives with 26 life-threatening food allergies, originally met with Legislator Gashi about the importance of this legislation back in 2019 and have both worked tirelessly for greater education and awareness about this issue in New York.
In testimony before the Board, Jason Linde, Senior Vice President of Government and Community Relations at FARE, said, “Currently, food allergy families are wary, scared, and anxious of taking any risks that might imperil the lives of a loved one, and are desperate for a normal experience when it comes to food. The Food Allergy Restaurant Safety bill is extremely helpful because it provides a level of comfort and safety for food allergy families that will prompt them to visit restaurants without the fear that their health condition will be misunderstood.”
FARE appreciates and is grateful for the work of Legislators Gashi and Cunzio; the support of the Chair of the Committee on Legislation, Legislator Colin Smith; the Chair of the Committee on Health, Jewel Williams Johnson; as well as the efforts of advocates like Stacey and Jared Saiontz who represent the concerns and fears felt by the more than 95,000 Westchester County individuals who live with life-threatening food allergies.
Westchester County now joins other states and municipalities with similar laws—such as Montgomery County, MD—working to keep individuals with food allergies safe. FARE is committed to continuing to advocate on behalf of those with life-threatening food allergies and hopes to expand legislative education, awareness and protection bills throughout the country.
FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) is the nation’s leading non-profit engaged in food allergy advocacy as well as the largest private funder of food allergy research. FARE’s innovative education, advocacy and research initiatives transform the future of food allergy through new and improved treatments and prevention strategies, effective policies and legislation, and novel approaches to managing the disease. To learn more, visit: foodallergy.org.