Food Allergies and Restaurants
FARE works with individuals, policymakers and restaurant industry groups to advocate on behalf of families managing food allergies.
FARE works with individuals, policymakers and restaurant industry groups to advocate on behalf of families managing food allergies. We commend restaurants who have demonstrated food allergy awareness. Five states -- Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Rhode Island and Virginia -- have laws designed to make it safer for individuals with food allergies to dine in restaurants. Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to pass a restaurant awareness law.
In addition to state-specific legislation, the FDA Food Code provides guidance for providing safety and protection of food served in retail and food service.
FDA Food Code
The FDA Food Code is updated and published every four years. The latest food code was published in 2017. The Food Code is adopted at different rates by different state and local governments, which means some locations may be operating on previous versions of the food code. However, the Food Code has addressed allergen safety for many years.
The 2017 Food Code requires that a person in charge demonstrate knowledge of the major food allergens regulated by the FDA, as well as the symptoms of a food allergy reaction. The Food Code also specifies that retail and food service managers be made aware of the seriousness of food allergies, including the potential for reactions, anaphylaxis and death; to know the 8 (soon to be 9) major food allergens, to understand food allergen ingredients and labeling; and how to avoid cross-contact during food preparation and service.
In addition to a manager being aware of food allergy safety, the Food Code requires that the person in charge ensure employees are properly trained in food safety, including food allergy awareness as it pertains to their jobs.
Restaurants in Illinois are now required by law to have at least one manager on duty who has had training in nationally recognized standards for food allergen safety and allergen awareness available at all times that the food service establishment is in operation. Information about this law can be found here.
Restaurants in Massachusetts are required by law to display a food allergy awareness poster (developed by FARE) in the staff area and include a notice on menus and menu boards that reads "Before placing your order, please inform your server if a person in your party has a food allergy."
The law also includes food allergy training for certified food protection managers via a video featuring Chef Ming Tsai, along with an accompanying training manual, FARE's Welcoming Guests with Food Allergies.
Restaurants in Massachusetts are also required to have on staff a certified food protection manager who has been issued a Massachusetts certificate of allergen awareness training through a training program recognized by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH).
More information about this important law can be found on the MDPH website.
Per Maryland state law, Maryland Code Annotated, Health-General 21-330.2(A), restaurants in Maryland are required to prominently display a food allergy awareness poster in the staff area.
To view a copy of the poster in English and Spanish and for more information, please visit the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene website.
Michigan’s Public Act 516 (2014) requires certified food safety managers in most restaurants to take a training course with an allergen awareness component. It was signed into law in January 2015. Hundreds of advocates, support group members and government affairs professionals from across the state worked on this effort for more than two years. FARE was actively engaged both publicly and behind the scenes in its passage.
Rhode Island followed the lead taken by Massachusetts, and passed a similar Food Allergy Awareness in Restaurants Act in 2012. Inspired by her sister Lauren who has food allergies, Rhode Island teen Danielle Mongeau advocated for food allergy awareness in restaurants and was instrumental in passage of this legislation. Restaurants in Rhode Island are now required by law to display a food allergy awareness poster in the staff area and include a notice to customers on all menus informing them of their obligation to inform their server of their food allergies. The law also requires restaurant managers to be trained and knowledgeable about food allergies as it pertains to food preparation.
Additionally, the Rhode Island law created a program for restaurants to be designated as “Food Allergy Friendly,” and a public database of restaurants earning that designation .
HB 2090 was signed into law in 2015, amending §§ 35.1-14 and 35.1-15 of the state code. It requires the state Board of Health to include training standards that address food safety and food allergy awareness and safety in its regulations governing restaurants. The law also requires the Commissioner of Health to provide materials on food safety and food allergy awareness and safety for the training of restaurant personnel. The idea for this Virginia bill was brought to Delegate Mark Keam in January 2014 by 14-year-old Claire Troy, who has food allergies. FARE worked with advocates and legislators in that state to support this.
New York City and St. Paul, MN
New York City requires posters with information on food allergy to be placed in food service establishments. The posters have to be available in multiple languages, including but not limited to Chinese, English, Korean, Russian, and Spanish.
The City Council of St. Paul, Minnesota has approved a similar measure. The St. Paul poster is modeled after a poster developed by one of FARE’s predecessor organizations, FAAN, and a flier created by the Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Association (AFAA) of Minnesota.
We hope that other states will follow suit with similar legislation to improve food allergy safety and awareness in restaurants. If you'd like to help enact a similar law in your state, Contact Us.
Restaurant Legislation Toolkit
Interested in advocating for a similar law in your state? FARE has created a Restaurant Legislation Toolkit to guide you. The toolkit provides resources to advocate for legislation that requires restaurants to train certain staff on food allergy safety. This toolkit includes a FARE position statement, a sample letter of introduction to legislators, model bill language, and suggested talking points.
For more information, please contact us.