If I had to pick my favorite place in this country to eat I would say Massachusetts. No, not because of the quality of food (though trust me they do have plenty of great food there), but because of the amazing food allergy legislation the state passed two years ago.
A few years ago Ming Tsai, chef; business owner; part time Food Network star; full time hottie and father of a food allergic son, spearheaded an initiative in his home state of Massachusetts to pass a comprehensive and common sense food allergy law that all restaurants would have to comply with.
The law gives restaurants 4 steps to do, the first 3 are mandatory and the last is voluntary:
- On all your menus clearly print, “If you have any food allergies please notify your server before ordering.” If you are a food allergic person this should be second nature to you anyway, but it never hurts to be reminded.
- In all kitchen a pre-printed poster which lists the 8 most common food allergies as well as general information on food allergies and proper food preparation.
- Requires the viewing of a food allergy video as part of standard food service courses. In just the same way that restaurant workers learn that you can’t cut the lettuce with the knife you just used to cut raw chicken, they learn information on segregating ingredients, washing down equipment etc.
- Voluntarily create a “food allergy reference book” which breaks down all the food you serve by ingredients and provides a quick and handy reference guide for kitchen staff and servers.
I visit Massachusetts a few times a year and it is a true pleasure to dine out there. I eat at places that I would never eat at in the rest of the country! For instance, it can be quite difficult to go to an ice cream shop with food allergies because they are constantly using and reusing the same scoop which mixes ingredients from tub to tub leading to cross contamination, but getting ice cream in Massachusetts is a food allergic persons dream. I just walk up to a window, hand the
high school kid worker my food allergy card, which list my allergies, and they say “No problem,” check the ingredients get a clean scoop and a fresh tub and within two minutes I’m enjoying my ice cream.
Do you have any idea how awesome that is? Probably not if you don’t have food allergies, but trust me; it’s really freaking awesome. It’s not just ice cream shops either, I’ve had great experiences in all the restaurants I’ve dined at in Massachusetts in the last year has been just that pleasant and easy!
So thank you Massachusetts! You’ve made dining a pleasure for people who can often find it stressful. Here’s hoping that one day soon New York, New Jersey and the rest of the country follow suit.