From NIAID, “Food allergy is an abnormal response to a food triggered by the body’s immune system” (2012).
Food allergies are NOT intolerances or sensitivities (though a disease like Celiac, while not an allergy, is very severe on its own). Food allergies are NOT an avoidance diet, lifestyle choice, nor dislike of certain foods. Food allergies make people very sick and can kill them. Masquerading a food you do not want for whatever reason as an allergy is not only a lie but dilutes the understanding of severe food allergies and makes the world more dangerous for those of us who have anaphylactic reactions. Read more about this here: Boston Globe Article
From NIDDK, "Celiac disease is an immune disorder in which people cannot tolerate gluten because it damages the inner lining of their small intestine and prevents it from absorbing nutrients" (2015).
One in 20 children under the age of five and 1 in 25 adults have at least one food that can cause them to have an allergic reaction (NIAID, 2012).
Restaurant food allergy awareness
Currently, 5 of the 50 United States have laws requiring restaurants to take action regarding food allergies. This action ranges from required trainings to displaying allergy awareness posters. Included in the list are Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Virginia.
For those of us with severe food allergies, eating in restaurants is too often a very risky gamble. Even if the restaurant staff is informed of the allergy, they may not realize the dangers of cross-contamination. Seeing a few states trying to make it easier and safer for us to participate in a popular social pleasure is very encouraging. Please see links below to each of those 5 states policies on food allergy awareness and to ServSafe® (a training source for everything food service related).
Even though I live in Massachusetts, I still remain vigilant regarding any food I do not make myself. These laws are a step in the right direction but in no way should they be considered adequate for protection against severe allergic reactions.