Photo: ruurmo, Flickr
Over the weekend a tweet from celebrity chef Rick Bayless caught our attention. It read: "O, wht 2 do? Peanuts all thru r kitchen, severe allergy guest. Cnt serve in good conscience, 4 his safety. Says we owe him $ 4 inconvenience."
While we were unable to reach the chef to get the gritty details, the incident certainly caught the attention of Bayless' Twitter followers and those with food allergies -- who agreed that the chef made the right call, including Chris Wiess, VP of advocacy and government relations for the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN).
"When I first read the tweet, I was impressed with his response. It does seem like he took the issue to heart. If a restaurant manager or employee looked around and assessed the situation, and felt that they couldn't provide a safe meal, we wouldn't want them to take a risk. What Rick did was very admirable," said Weiss.
For chefs and restaurant owners, guests with food allergies aren't going away anytime soon, and the consequences are deadly serious. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases 100 to 200 people die in the United States from severe food allergy-related reactions each year. (Keep reading, and take our food-allergy poll after the jump.)
In Massachusetts, restaurants are now required by law to display a food allergy awareness poster for staff, and include a notice at the bottom of menus which puts the diner on alert: "Before placing your order, please inform your server if a person in your party has a food allergy." And, as of Feb. 1, restaurants in the Bay State will be required to have a certified food protection manager on staff who has undergone allergen awareness training.
Longtime allergy advocate chef Ming Tsai helped produce training videos for FAAN, and has been a proponent of the Massachusetts law since the beginning. It's personal for the chef. His son, David, was born with seven of the eight major food allergies: soy, wheat, dairy, shellfish, eggs, tree nuts and peanuts. (The eighth is fish.)
"We've had a lot of interest from other states seeking to replicate Massachusetts' law, so we fully expect other states to come onboard," Chris Wiess said. "How soon that will be is tough to say. But what's happening in Massachusetts is putting food allergies on the map."
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