Maya's Happy Place

A multiple food allergy kid grows up.

The Americans With Disabilities Act and Food Allergies

Yesterday, the news was all over Twitter yesterday and I am so excited to talk about this! This is a huge leap in the food allergy community that affects every aspect of our lives; we are now protected by the federal government.

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Are ALL restaurants now required to give me safe food choices??


Yes! Apparently President Barack Obama has extended the Americans With Disabilities Act to cover people who suffer with a severe food allergy!

Official portrait of Barack Obama

In plain English, this means several amazing things:

1. All schools, restaurants, hotels and cafeterias in the United States are required by law to provide alternate food choices for people with a severe food allergy.

Positive side: The Americans With Disabilities Act requires that there is food available for people with severe food allergies. It also holds more weight and credibility in the eyes of people who do not take food allergies seriously.
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Its not funny.

Negative side: People usually don’t know about food derivatives. Most people don’t know that ‘natural flavors’ and ‘vegetable protein’ is concentrated soy, or that peanut is a legume. Also, the dangers of cross-contamination with allergen-free foods and safe choices will likely be high, unless wrapped peanut-free soy-free snacks (Hint hint, ‘ENJOY LIFE’ CEOs!!!) are sent straight to businesses.
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If faculty asks the class what legumes are, your peanut allergy kid will be the first to raise her hand…I know I was.


There is currently no mandatory food allergy educational program implemented in schools (which I think is the key to real change in the food industry and allergy community).

 2. Lawsuits like this one will likely get media attention; because of possible bankruptcy, more businesses will take this act seriously and educate themselves about disabilities, including food allergies.

Positive side: You are protecting your rights or those of your child. 

Negative side: The negatives in this case are in the eye of the beholder. For those of us affected, this is a Godsend. For business owners and institutions, this can be a slight nightmare. The truth is, if they want to take on the responsibility of serving food or owning a business in the USA, they should have all bases covered. This includes treating everyone fairly and equally by providing the same level of service and providing allergen-free food for special diets.
3.  A person with a food allergy may NOT be discriminated against in the workplace or even when applying for employment.

Positive side: You can be honest about your food allergy. You are now covered in case you have a legitimate reason to believe you were not hired because of your disability. 

Negative side: Here, once again the negatives are in the eye of the beholder.

 4. Businesses, companies, institutions and anywhere that is considered a legal business cannot fire you if you call out or have an emergency and have to leave due to your food allergy.

 Example: You have a severe allergic reaction to something. Let’s say you go to the hospital for anaphylaxis and you can’t work for a week or two because your body is covered in rashes and you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck. You’re now hopped up on Prednisone and Atarax around the clock. 
Basically, they can’t fire you if you have a medical note either from the hospital or doctor. You are not obligated to go back to work until you are fully healed and able to.

Positive side: You keep your job. People are less likely to be angry or upset at you for calling out sick due to a food allergy reaction if they are aware of this law that is NOW in place!

Negative side: Allergy skeptics such as those on Fox news may say the ‘burden’ ends up on the employer; which is funny because if anyone deems it a burden after this law, they can be sued.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the new law! If you have anything to add to this post, PLEASE post it as well!
Stay healthy and allergen free, all! 
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I love this country!

5 responses to “The Americans With Disabilities Act and Food Allergies”

  1. The law is nice but I really don't see how most restaurants can comply with it if they don't have allergen free stuff on hand to offer you. This would be very true for a soy allergy, as soy is in EVERYTHING. It hides under so many names. I don't think all places even carry salads… Soy allergy means cooking from scratch from safe ingredients or else eating raw veggies/fruits. I once recall reading on an allergy forum a person with food allergies went out to a family birthday at this one restuarant and while everyone was feasting on yummy stuff the ONLY thing the restaurant could offer her was a slice of lemon on a plate. The sadder part is her family knew of her allergy but chose to dine there anyway. But what if restaurants say “we did comply – we gave you a lemon slice..”? Last summer I spent some time going from restaurant to restaurant (mostly fast food) asking about the ingredients in their food. I did this mostly out of curiosity. I found out that most employees had no idea what cooking oil they were using (one sub shop didn't even care enough to go look). They had no idea what was in the bread. One Pizza place TRIED to find out – the employee tried calling two phone numbers and those people didn't know, either. Truthfully it was very eye-opening and scary. There are thousands of people eating at these places and even the employees don't know what's in the food. Truthfully the results depressed me.

  2. Another problem is that many restaurants get the food from vendors and it has no ingredient labels on it. They have no idea what is in the stuff and in most cases even the vendors probably don't know. I actually found the one restaurant with waitresses worst than the fast food places, as they lied on their menu. They advertised soup on the menu as “homemade” but when I inquired if there was soy in it, then they admitted that there was a soy warning on the can it came out of!! Ummm…homemade soup does NOT come from cans! I did try their French fries cooked in canola oil but got a reaction and ended up with diarhea at the Walmart across the street. The place had even sprinkled some kind of tiny bits of cheese all over the plain salad I had ordered. Was a mess trying to eat only the veggie and not the cheese, as it may have had soy in it. Never went there again. I'd rather chance McDonald's that eating there. At least I know McDonald's Ice Tea is safe.But my point is it would be very hard for most restaurants to have something on hand for people with soy allergies when you add in the Natural Flavors and the tons of other names that is in almost everything these days. I DO hope things will change but I think getting companies to stop using Natural Flavors would be nearly impossible. Since its a lighter form of MSG (according to some websites) it is a flavor enhancer and probably increases sales. People buy what tastes good and we who are allergic suffer as a result. By suffer, I mean its so hard to find safe things to eat. More companies that never used it are adding it. Its even in the products at the health food stores. I used to but this one brand of milk, then I started getting reactions from it and sure enough, they added Natural Flavors to their chocolate milk – it must have contaminated the regular milk somehow. Now I buy another brand and that seems OK for now.

  3. On the other hand I did have a nice meal at one place, a cafe here with waitresses. They cooked meat on a grill and put a nice handmade chutney sauce made from mangoes on it and gave me a salad … but that place also already knew about allergies and stated that on their website. So this shows it IS possible but most places don't have the ingredients on hand to do this.There was another place in business here for about 6 months. It was a smoothie place in one of the malls and the smoothies were made from fresh ingredients. My hopes of a cool drink went up but then I found out they used soy protein powder and they had tofu as well! The place was also offering gluten-free sandwiches but had a warning that they had normal bread as well. When I inquired if a smoothie from them would be safe in regards to my soy allergy, they said no, that “everything touches every surface and that it is all contaminated”. At least they were honest. But I still think it would have been soooo easy for that place to offer soy-free drinks if they would have stuck to fruits and veggies and did not offer the soy protein / tofu.Do you want to hear something else interesting? The last two summers I went down to one of our summer festivals by the Lake. Its held within thise huge place enclosed by fences and carry-in food is not allowed. They have many booths that sell hot food down there. Well, the first year I spent about 2 hours going from booth to booth inquiring as to what cooking oil they used. Most used vegetable oil, a few had no idea, one refused to say and one used a mix of Canola/Sunflower. I bought fries from the last place. But while I was eating I noticed something interesting… The other places that used Soy oil (vegetable oil) had HUGE LINES of people waiting to buy food and the place I bought from had almost no costumers. The fairgrounds was packed, too, and it was near 5 / 6 PM. Never forgot seeing that. I know its not very “scientific” but I did find it interesting. I think it points to the fact most people like how soy tastes? Mostly I ate raw fruit down there, which thankfully one vender sells.Sorry this is so long.

  4. Anonymous,Thank you so much for sharing those experiences! I DEFINITELY can relate….just the other day I was at the mall with my mom and went from eatery to eatery in the food court trying to find out who didn't use soybean or vegetable oil. The answer was Nathan's…they use corn oil, but then the actual products themselves contain soy protein and soy flour!!! Grrrrrr talk about depressed, I ended up eating Wendy's and suffering….itchy mouth then went home and passed out from being so tired from my soy allergy reaction. Its ALL ABOUT THE MONEY with these companies…Soybean oil and vegetable oil and corn oil (GMOs) ARE CHEAP. This is why WE end up suffering, because not enough people are complaining or causing waves. If more negative health repercussions happened to the public, the government might be more aware of what is going on. Instead we suffer in semi-silence. So basically, the first step to getting rid of soybean oil in our country is to get GMOs labeled, since that is a threat to public health and the majority of the population's well-being. Going back to the law affecting restaurants, I honestly think if a restaurant tried to say they found a 'healthy' option for a customer by serving a lemon slice on a plate and that was tried by a jury, everyone would conclude that a lemon slice is not a healthy or reasonably balanced meal, which is all we expect from dining out! So if this issue ever presented itself in court, I feel pretty strongly that the client would win. There are tons of foods we CAN eat. For a restaurant to not be able to cater to our diet because EVERYTHING they use is processed or soy-laden is completely unacceptable and they definitely need more education in the restaurant industry on this matter.Thank you for stopping by once again! Always a pleasure to hear from my guests. By sharing our experiences we help each other!

  5. They get their fries from a manufacturer who coats the fries in soy oil before shipping, because they think we don't need to know about soy oil because some people don't have problems with it.

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