Hawaii considering restaurant food allergy bill

Following in the footsteps of the Massachusetts landmark food allergy law and the recent ordinance in St. Paul, MN, the state of Hawaii is now evaluating a restaurant food allergy law as well. While still in the early stages, the House Committee on Health is considering Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu’s bill that would “establish guidelines and safeguards to make restaurants safer for those with allergies by expanding the food safety consultative and education program under the department of health.” (Hawaii Reporter, 2/2/10)

What really encourages me is that Rep. Karamatsu really seems to “get it.” “It is my hope that a restaurant’s ability to provide consumers with detailed information about their menu and ingredients will enable people who would normally choose to stay home and eat because of high sensitivity to foods to enjoy a dining experience outside of the home, and assist in generating more business for our restaurant industries.”

Even though AllergyEats readers are more concerned about the consumer experience, we shouldn’t underestimate the value of the last part of that quote. Restaurants respond to that which affects their bottom line profits. As our community grows in number, and hopefully as a site such as AllergyEats drives food allergic patrons to more allergy-friendly restaurants, it is my belief that an increasing number of restaurants will respond positively toward our community in order to maintain and grow their profitability.

Here’s further evidence of Rep. Karamatsu’s understanding of the subject. “The growing prevalence of food allergies and the associated anaphylaxis is on the rise and that’s what makes it all the more important that we take the upfront, precautionary and educational steps to make our restaurants ‘food allergy friendly.’” (I like that last phrase.)

This bill has a long road to travel before it can become law, but it is yet another sign that lawmakers are starting to understand and attempt to accommodate our community’s needs.

For those in Hawaii (and elsewhere), please go to the AllergyEats main site (www.allergyeats.com) and rate some restaurants so we can help demonstrate the value our community can drive to those restaurateurs who work to be allergy-friendly. Thank you.

(As always, I welcome comments below. Anyone in Hawaii have a better inside perspective?)

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