Senator Frantz Supports Bill to Encourage Greater Food Allergy Awareness [Greenwich Citizen]

May 2, 2013
State Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-36th District has proposed a bill, "An Act Concerning Procedures For Serving Persons With Food Allergies," which he hopes will become a Connecticut state law. (Credit: File Photo, Greenwich Citizen)

State Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-36th District has proposed a bill, “An Act Concerning Procedures For Serving Persons With Food Allergies,” which he hopes will become a Connecticut state law. (Credit: File Photo, Greenwich Citizen)

Article as it appeared in the Greenwich Citizen on May 1, 2013

There oughta be a law
By Anne W. Semmes

The first thing Richard Adamo does when his family sits down for a meal in a restaurant is meticulously wipe the table down. Then he sets it with plastic utensils and paper cups that he brings from home. But Adamo, a Greenwich resident, is no Felix Unger neat freak or Howie Mandel germaphobe. He goes through the odd routine to safeguard the lives of his two daughters. The girls, ages 7 and 10, have severe food allergies and Adamo worries that what they eat or even come in contact with might kill them.

The older daughter (he prefers not to publish their first names) is allergic to milk, eggs and nuts, and the younger girl has sensitivity to milk and is allergic to shellfish and nuts.

It only takes a whisper of these allergens to bring on severe reactions. Adamo recalls one of his girls bringing home a library book that had traces of peanut butter on it and it caused her eye to “blow up.”

An allergic reaction to food is an abnormal response to a food triggered by your body’s immune system. Reactions can range anywhere from a tingling or itching in the mouth to hives, swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat, to trouble breathing, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, or even to anaphylaxis.

The emergency treatment for the severe reactions that can lead to anaphylaxis is an EpiPen that must be used within 20 minutes of the reaction. “It has a 1-inch needle,” says Adamo, “that you have to jam into their leg to block or stave off the reaction, such as their throat closing, so you can get to a doctor.”

“It’s very painful,” he says. His older daughter experienced it when she was seven. “It was not pleasant,” he says, “She doesn’t want to have it again.”

Adamo is grateful they have yet to experience an “episode” in a restaurant — but then they rarely eat out. “We make a lot of our own meals,” says Adamo, who has become a pretty good cook by necessity. “We make our own pizzas and Sloppy Joes,” he says, and what he calls “a great salmon.” His kids also get ice cream at home. “I make my own ice cream,” he says, “and it’s good!”

Last summer Adamo took his family to Boston and to a restaurant, the Blue Ginger, which was recommended by a friend. “It’s an Asian restaurant in Wellesley, Mass.,” Adamo said. He knew, though, that often with Asian cooking came peanut oil, but he also knew that the chef, Ming Tsai, had a child with food allergies so his restaurant was “very [food allergy] friendly.”

Adamo also learned the chef was instrumental in getting a bill passed in the state that would require other restaurants to be food allergy friendly. “It’s sort of a bill of rights,” said Adamo, “and it has been in effect since 2009.”

Massachusetts turns out to be one of the first states in the U.S. to have such a bill — and now Adamo is pressing to make Connecticut another.

Adamo blitzed his local representatives with his proposal to make restaurants become more allergy-conscious — and State Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-36th District, responded. Adamo had hit a nerve with Frantz. “I have a brother who’s allergic to shellfish,” says Frantz. Some 20 years ago, Frantz considered getting into the business of `safe foods’ for those with food allergies. That didn’t happen, Frantz said, but he was made aware of the number of people with food allergies. He also tried “to figure out” why more and more people were food-allergic.

In Adamo’s pitch to Frantz, he cited the number of Americans with food allergies: “According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), more than 12 million Americans have food allergies, and about 3 million of them are children. It is estimated that food-related anaphylaxis results in about 150 deaths and more than 50,000 emergency room admissions each year. It is a growing issue, with the prevalence of food allergies and associated anaphylaxis on the rise.”

Subsequently, Frantz has submitted a bill in Conn. to require restaurants to establish procedures to address those with food allergies. The Legislature’s Public Health Committee has not taken action on the bill, and there is just about one month left to go in the 2013 legislative session, which ends June 5.