Food allergies are a common, serious-and sometimes fatal--problem. Nearly 11 million Americans have food allergies or an estimated 6 to 8% of young children and 4% of the general population. Close to 327,000 New Jerseyans have food allergies, of which 100,000 are children. The only proven way to prevent allergic reactions caused by trigger foods is to avoid those foods. For the person with a food allergy, or those (e.g., teacher, parent, coach, youth group leader) caring for them, that means reading ingredient labels on food packages, knowing how foods are prepared and asking questions when eating out. It also means that food service employees need to be fully informed about menu ingredients, preparation procedures, and storage procedures.
Education is the key to raising awareness about food allergies, and in particular, how to avoid triggering an allergic reaction in someone with a food allergy. In New Jersey, Public Law 2005, c.026 (A303 ACS 2R) set the stage for this education by mandating the development of a fact sheet and public information campaign to help restaurateurs and state residents prevent triggering food allergy reactions. Rutgers University (Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Nutritional Sciences Department, Food Policy Institute), in collaboration with the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services and NJ Restaurant Association, put the mandate of the law into action. The goals of this project were to:
To obtain food allergy project materials, visit: www.foodallergy.rutgers.edu.
To promote awareness and adoption of these materials, this project was presented at the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology/International Society of Exposure Analysis Conference and the American Dietetic Association's Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition, where it received an excellence award. Findings also were published:
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