State Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan is seeking support for a bill that aims to limit deadly food allergen contaminations in restaurants and camps by ensuring that food handlers receive adequate certification and training, gaining inspiration from a Danville girl who died after peanut exposure at a summer camp.
Assembly Bill 1532 would require that all food handlers have certification in safe food handling practices for major food allergens, ensuring that food handlers will be versed in things like cross-contamination and how to properly deal with a customer’s allergies.
“It is incredibly important that we shed light on this issue as it affects millions of Americans and is especially impactful on our children,” Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) said during a press conference held at Livermore’s Camp Arroyo on Wednesday. “This isn't an issue that is going to go away, and it's incumbent upon all of us to make sure that we are doing our part to keep people safe and educated.”
Representatives from Bauer-Kahan’s office added that AB 1532 would also add “organized camps” to the definition of “food facility” in order to ensure food handlers are camps also receive adequate certification.
AB 1532 is named “The Natalie Giorgi Sunshine Act” in honor of Danville resident Natalie Giorgi, who died at age 13 after having a severe reaction to a peanut allergy while at summer camp in 2013.
“After learning of Natalie’s heartbreaking story and meeting with her parents and their foundation, I was inspired to act to ensure this never happens to another child,” Bauer-Kahan said. “An hour of a food handler’s time could literally save lives.”
Natalie’s parents, Louis and Joanne Giorgi, have since started the Natalie Giorgi Sunshine Foundation to advocate for food allergy safety, and were present at Wednesday’s press conference to speak of their daughter and thank Bauer-Kahan for her legislative efforts.
“Since Natalie’s death, Louis and I have worked to hopefully raise awareness, trying to make a difference in our communities so that children and adults are safer,” Joanne Giorgi said Wednesday. “Natalie was a vibrant energetic 13-year-old who loved to be involved in her community. She would be grateful to know that in her name, things are being done to make life easier for those who suffer with food allergies.”
“Scientists don’t know why the numbers are so huge now, ultimately with nearly 10% of Americans now affected by food allergies,” Louis Giorgi added. “Taking these simple steps will have such a profound impact ... It is simply going to keep us all safer so that Natalie's story is never retold, none wants to be standing at a microphone talking about this.”
During the conference, Bauer-Kahan highlighted the need for communities to increase their awareness of the issues due to the high increase in deadly allergic reactions occurring in the United States.
Over the last decade, the number of people who have needed to receive medical treatment for anaphylaxis has risen by 377%, and this issue is particularly deadly for children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year food allergy reactions result in more than 200,000 ambulatory visits involving children under the age of 18.
Local organizations like the Taylor Family Foundation -- which operates Camp Arroyo in partnership with the East Bay Regional Park District -- have taken up the call to conduct safe food handling, with officials from the assemblywoman’s office say have been on the forefront of allergen safety practices for decades.
“For nearly 20 years, we have strived to bring the very best quality of food and service to all the children and families we serve in partnership with East Bay Regional Park District. We look forward to continuing to preserve the wellness of children in Northern California,” said Angie Carmignani, the Taylor Family Foundation’s executive director.
AB 1532 has already passed the State Assembly on a bipartisan, and unanimous, vote of 76-0. It is set to be considered by the State Senate within the next two weeks.