Like most teens, 16-year-old Lauren Mongeau enjoys hanging out with friends at restaurants. However, she’s never able to share a meal with them.
Mongeau has multiple food allergies. She says that avoiding a reaction in Rhode Island restaurants is nearly impossible.
With Lauren’s severe allergies, even tiny amounts of peanuts, eggs, tree nuts, lamb, beef, bananas, mustard or sesame seeds could cause a life-threatening allergic reaction.
“She usually chooses not to eat at all,” explains her older sister Danielle, who is 18. “She still wants to be part of it because she’s in high school and just wants to be social and have a good time with her friends. It’s a struggle that has seriously affected her life.”
Food Allergy Awareness Program
Last year, Danielle emailed Rhode Island Senator Louis DiPalma, asking for a bill that would institute a food allergy awareness program for restaurants.
A similar program, already instituted in Massachusetts, involves signage about food allergens and allergen menu notices. Restaurants there are also required to designate a food allergy manager who undergoes specialized training about food allergies.
Servers don’t understand the severity of food allergies
In Danielle’s email to her state senator, she explained that the family had gone out to eat only seven times. Of these, Lauren was hospitalized for an allergic reaction five times.
The family has found that servers often don’t understand the severity of food allergies. Once, they were asked to leave a restaurant after the server noticed they had brought food from home for Lauren.
Bill passed last year, will take effect in July
DiPalma told ABCNews.com that he’s only received two emails from teens in his five years as a state senator. The bill passed last year, and will take effect this July.
“We didn’t need to reinvent what’s already good practice out there in Massachusetts, and that’s what we chose to do,” explained DiPalma.