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The new law requires the New York State Commissioner of Health to develop model state guidelines to manage the risk of food allergy and anaphylaxis (a potentially fatal allergic reaction) in schools. All New York schools must receive the guidelines by June 30, 2008. Though the AAMA calls for schools to develop policies based on the guidelines, it provides flexibility for each school to create a policy consistent with its unique environment and culture.
"This vital legislation will save lives," said Robert Pacenza, Executive Director, FAI. "If a food-allergic child accidentally ingests even a miniscule trace of the wrong food, it can trigger a reaction that can kill within minutes. The AAMA will provide New York parents and schools with sensible guidelines to help keep these kids safe. FAI is proud to have been the organizing force behind this effort."
During the past year, FAI led a coalition of food allergy support groups and parents across New York State to achieve the passage of the AAMA. In the months ahead, the organization plans to consult with the Commissioner of Health and other interested parties to create the new food allergy guidelines. FAI expresses its appreciation to Governor Spitzer and to Senator Serphin Maltese (R-Long Island) and Assemblyman Jose Rivera (D-Bronx), who championed the bill in the New York State Assembly.
Food allergy is a major public health concern, affecting more than 11 million Americans -- at least 6% of children under age 3, and 3-4% of the adult population. In particular, the number of children with peanut allergy doubled from 1997-2002. Every year, at least 150 people die from food allergy, and severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) account for more than 30,000 emergency room visits. There is no cure, and no therapy to prevent anaphylaxis -- only emergency treatment with epinephrine to control a reaction that is already in progress.