May 11, 2004
Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy
(518) 455-5203

Legislation Aims to Prevent Fatal Allergic Reactions
Bills would allow students to carry and use medication in school and require foods containing a major food allergen to indicate that on the front of the package

(Albany, NY) -In honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week, Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz (Brooklyn), Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy, was joined today by Albany area parents and children who suffer with these allergies to advocate for passage of bills to help prevent fatal reactions to food. One bill, (A.9773/S.4767), would require that foods containing a food allergen be labeled. The other bill, (A.11093), would require schools to allow students with food and other severe allergies to carry epinephrine at school to self-administer and possibly save their own life in the event of an allergic reaction.

According to Ortiz, "Nearly 11 million Americans suffer from food allergies including approximately 2 million school-aged children. All of these individuals are at risk for potentially life-threatening allergic reactions resulting in over 30,000 emergency room admissions each year and between 150 and 200 annual deaths; many of these young children and young adults. Because trace amounts of these foods can cause a reaction it is imperative that parents and children can easily identify and avoid those products. That is why we want labeling. To make the invisible, visible"

The labeling legislation would require foods that contain either a major food allergen (shellfish, egg, fish, milk, peanuts, soybeans, tree nuts, and wheat) or a major source of gluten (barley, oats, rye, and triticale) to be labeled as containing such ingredient on the front of the package the item is sold in as opposed to only in the small ingredient listing on the side or back of a package.

Families who spoke at the press conference talked about the constant struggle they have to watch for foods that may be dangerous for their children. Even with labeling there may be instances where a child is exposed to a deadly food and when that happens there is a need for immediate treatment with epinephrine especially at school. According to the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, "Data clearly show that fatalities more often occur away from home and are associated with either not using epinephrine or a delay in the use of epinephrine treatment. Epinephrine should be kept in locations that are easily accessible and all (school) staff members should know these locations. Children old enough to self-administer epinephrine should carry their own kits. "

"While it is important that we make our schools free from illegal drugs, we should not make them free from life-saving drugs. Many well-intentioned school administrators are hesitant to allow students to carry epinephrine injectors or epi-pens. My bill would authorize children with severe allergies to carry such medication at school and relieve schools from liability concerns. It would also require that schools keep epinephrine in the nurse's office for children who are not ready to use it themselves. There is no reason for an allergic child to spend seven hours a day, five days a week 180 days each year without ready access to their lifeline," said Ortiz.

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