Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), a senior Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and chairman of its Subcommittee on Children and Families, today introduced legislation critical to millions of American children who suffer from food allergies. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act of 2009, which is cosponsored in the Senate by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), ranking Republican on the Subcommittee of Children and Families, and sponsored by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) in the House, would provide for a consistent, voluntary approach to food allergy management guidelines for schools, and would offer incentive grants to schools that choose to implement such voluntary guidelines.
The bill, which Dodd and Lowey initially introduced in 2006, is endorsed by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, and many other organizations. Last year, the House of Representatives passed similar legislation.
“Managing dangerous food allergies at home can be a daunting task for parents, and outside that safe environment, it becomes even more difficult to protect children from exposure to allergens,” said Dodd. “I am proud that my home state of Connecticut has led the way by issuing school-based food allergy guidelines and requiring training for school personnel. Creating voluntary food allergy management guidelines at the federal level will help schools maintain a safe and happy educational environment for all students, and provide the parents of children with severe food allergies some much-needed peace of mind.”
“I’m glad to once again offer my support for this bipartisan legislation to make sure parents can send their children to school without worrying that their son or daughter might suffer a life-threatening allergic reaction at the lunch table,” said Alexander, a former Secretary of Education. “This bill will help our school administrators, teachers, and nurses have the best training possible to protect the 41,000 children in Tennessee and millions throughout the country who suffer from potentially fatal allergies by providing guidelines and grants that will make it easier for schools to prevent emergencies and be as prepared as possible if one occurs.”
“The number of children with food allergies is too great and the risks of exposure are too high for the federal government not to act,” said Lowey. “Schools need guidelines for preventing food allergen exposure and responding promptly to dangerous reactions. This is a critical step in ensuring a safe school environment for families and children.” Lowey also authored legislation enacted in 2004, which requires food labels to clearly list the presence of the top eight ingredients that cause allergic reactions.
The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act of 2009 directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretary of Education, to develop voluntary food allergy guidelines to prevent exposure to food allergens and assure a prompt response when a child suffers a potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction. The guidelines must be developed and made available within one year of enactment of the law. The legislation also provides for incentive grants to local educational agencies to assist with adoption and implementation of food allergy guidelines in public schools.
On June 7, 2005, Connecticut became the first state to enact legislation requiring the establishment of school-based guidelines concerning food allergies and the prevention of life-threatening incidents in schools, including education and training for school personnel, procedures for responding to life-threatening allergic reactions and protocols to prevent exposure to food allergens.