Food Allergy Legislation: The Senate Votes Next Week

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With the number of people who have food allergies on the rise, there is a lot of concern about how allergic reactions are handled in schools. Since food allergy reactions can be fatal, the Food Allergy and Research Education (FARE) group is working to get legislation passed that will make sure all schools in the nation are prepared.

The House of Representatives passed H.R. 2094: School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act in July, and the bill will go before the U.S. Senate next week, on October 2. If the bill is passed and signed into law, all schools will be required to have EpiPens on hand in case a student has an allergic reaction. EpiPens are described as the "first line of defense."

Food allergies affect 1 out of 13 children, which according to FARE is "roughly two in every classroom." Food allergies increased 50 percent from 1997 to 2011, and the numbers are expected to continue going up. Some people are unaware that they even have food allergies until they have a reaction. Death related to food allergy complications can occur within minutes, which necessitates a quick response.

This January 2012 death of seven-year-old Amarria Johnson from Virginia inspired the pending bill. Amarria died after eating a peanut another child gave her. Since Amarria didn't have an EpiPen prescription at the school, she had to wait to receive treatment from EMTs, but by then it was too late. After Amarria's death, state legislators passed "Amarria's Law," which requires all schools in Virginia to have EpiPens.

According to the University of Michigan's Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, "epinephrine is used more frequently in schools than a fire extinguisher...and the cost of maintaining epinephrine is significantly less expensive as well." The number of deaths related to food allergy reactions is between 100 to 200 deaths per year, so the passing of the food allergy bill could be lifesaving.

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