Massachusetts Moves Forward With Allergen Awareness Regulations for Restaurants

Many kudos this morning to Chef Ming Tsai and all who’ve encouraged Massachusetts legislature to require that restaurants become more aware of consumer food allergies! It was announced late last week that the state would move to implement regulations requiring food allergy training for restaurant staffers starting this spring. According to the state’s Department of Public Health, under the new rules, restaurant menus will include information on potential food allergens, and employees will be taught how to facilitate food delivery without allergen contamination – both ideals that Chef Tsai has rallied for over the last few years.

“My goal is to serve anyone with food allergies safely in any restaurant in the state,’’ said Tsai, winner of a prestigious James Beard Award and star of an eponymous PBS show. “I don’t buy that a restaurant’s too busy that they can’t figure out whether it’s safe to serve people. If you do not know what’s in your food at all times, you should get out of the restaurant industry.’’

The new regulations would apply to nearly 17,000 eating establishments in the state of Massachusetts. Additional provisions require food allergy information be posted prominently within restaurant kitchens by this summer, with officials hoping that training be completed by at least one worker in every location by January, 2011.

Many in the food allergy community are encouraged by the state’s willingness to pursue restaurant allergen education.

“We’re hoping that other states will follow the model that’s being set in Massachusetts,’’ said Chris Weiss, vice president of advocacy and government relations at the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. “If you look at the research we’ve done on food allergy fatalities, just about half were the result of food served by a restaurant or some sort of a food-service establishment.’’

Tsai discussed the adamant pursuance of allergy awareness in his own restaurant, Blue Ginger, during our interview last summer.

~Jennifer Heigl

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