Press Release - Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz
District Office

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Brooklyn, NY 11220
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The Assembly

Room 542
Legislative Office Bldg.
Albany, NY 12248
(518) 455-3821

May 17, 2005
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 schools; Require packaged foods to be labeled with toll-free number for inquiries about allergens; Require food allergy information for food service owners and employees

(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 members of the NYS Nut Allergy Awareness Group including parents and children who suffer with these allergies to advocate for passage of bills to help prevent fatal reactions to food.

The first bill, A.2166, would require schools to allow students with food and other severe allergies to carry an epi-pen to self-administer epinephrine in case of an allergic reaction and possibly save their own life; A.6834 would require large food manufacturers to provide a toll-free telephone number and smaller food producers, an address or email address so that allergic individuals could easily get information about risky ingredients; and, A.8006 would require the State Health Department to provide information to food service owners and employees about helping customers avoid dangerous allergens and explain what the consequences are if they don’t.

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. We want to make the invisible, visible."

Families who spoke at the press conference talked about the constant struggle they have to avoid foods that may be dangerous for their children. When a child is exposed to a deadly food 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.

There is also a need for prevention and quick response at home and when eating away from home. "My toll-free phone number bill allows families to check with food manufacturers to make sure there are no dangerous ingredients. The legislation affecting restaurants and food service would help prevent problems by having food service staff educated on how to inform customers about the potential presence of allergens in foods they serve and the need to recognize and get help quickly if a person has a severe allergic reaction."

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