MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Food allergy sufferers in Nassau County are pushing for allergy safety in restaurants.

A new bill is proposing food establishments better train employees on how to handle food safely, CBS2’s Christina Fan reported Monday.

Eating out is a privilege for most families in Nassau, but for allergy sufferers it’s also a risk they can’t afford to take.

“I know the fear that goes into just a dining out experience, traveling, going to people’s homes for play dates. We live with a low level of anxiety always,” said Liana Backal, whose child has food allergies.

“I can’t count the number of times I’ve been guaranteed that a food doesn’t contain egg, and to see that it’s covered in mayo which contains eggs,” parent Elena Zimmerman said.

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Legislators and food allergy sufferers banded together Monday to throw support behind a new billsponsored by Nassau County Legislator Joshua Lafazan (I – Woodbury) calling for restaurant safety. Many shared stories of going into anaphylactic shock after eating food in a restaurant.

“Just two weeks ago, I was sent to the hospital after taking two bites of a pizza that I was told to be gluten-free and nut free. Little did I know the cheese that was put on top of the pizza was a cashew-based cheese,” Jonathan Grossman said.

Grossman suffers from severe food allergies and also can’t eat gluten. He said too often restaurant staff don’t know what goes into their ingredients. He was one of dozens backing the new bill that would better educate restaurant employees.

“We need this bill so all people who have allergies do not end up in the hospital like I did two weeks ago,” Grossman said.

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The proposal would require Nassau County restaurants to designate at least two employees as food safety officers. They would have to undergo training on how to prevent cross contamination and how to respond to allergic reactions.

Restaurant owners CBS2 spoke with were mostly open to the idea. Right now, many don’t receive too many allergy-specific requests. They said finding qualified employees to train is always the challenge.

“We try to get the right people, trying to do the best. The payroll is very high. It’s very hard today to be in business,” said George Angelakis, owner of the Carle Place Diner.

“This bill is about training. It’s about education. It’s about awareness, and that’s what we do,” said Legislator Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview).

The bill would also direct restaurants to post allergy awareness signs in dining areas and cooking areas. Non compliance can result in fines of up to $500. It’s still unclear when the Legislature will take up the bill.

Legislators said they expect to receive bipartisan support.


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