Yesterday, the City of Toronto’s Licensing and Standards Committee voted to indefinitely defer the motion to explore a policy option that would mandate all Toronto restaurants and other potential public places to carry stock epinephrine (epinephrine auto-injectors that are not prescribed for a particular person and can be used in an emergency).
We are disappointed in the deferral as it denies the chance for city staff to take a broad look at the issue in consultation with medical experts and community and industry advocates. We are particularly disheartened by some of the misleading and inaccurate information brought forth during the meeting.
Food allergies are a growing public health concern affecting more than 2.5 million Canadians and issues related to safe allergen management in the community are an ongoing concern. We urge Council to reconsider a policy review, through a public health lens, specifically as it relates to universal training and policies for the food industry on allergen management. It is beyond time we treat food allergies as a food safety issue in public places.
We would like to thank Leah Gallo, whose 12-year-old daughter Maia Santarelli-Gallo passed away in 2013 from an anaphylactic reaction in a Burlington mall, for providing a statement read by Beatrice Povolo, Director, Advocacy and Media Relations, who presented to the Council (please see Leah Gallo’s statement below). We also want to thank Pauline Osena, mother of two children with multiple food allergies and a community advocate, who presented to the Council with Beatrice. Thanks to all of you, our community, who submitted their comments directly to the Committee.
We are proud of the progress we have made with government and industry partners on policies and initiatives to keep people at risk of anaphylaxis safe. We are continuing to advocate for food allergy awareness and public policies that support shared responsibility for managing food allergies.
Statement from Leah Gallo
My daughter Maia Santarelli-Gallo passed away March 13, 2013 at 12 years old. Cause of death: anaphylaxis. Her death was in a food court at a shopping mall in Burlington, where she had consumed an ice-cream cone. I was not with her that day at the mall. A mother’s worst fear of raising a child with allergies happened.
My focus has been, and continues to be, on prevention. How we all can work together to stop deaths from anaphylaxis from happening. We need food establishments to have proper training in food safety/handling, better communication between customers with food allergies and all staff members, consideration of procedures to reduce cross-contamination in their establishments, AND availability of stock epinephrine in case of an emergency, and for added safety measures for those with known and unknown allergies. All of this will go a long way in preventing a severe reaction and/or death.
While it is ultimately the responsibility of the allergic person to carry their own epinephrine, accidents happen, people forget, they may be scared to administer it themselves, or they are experiencing their first allergic reaction to an unknown substance. It is a public responsibility to ensure no life is lost to anaphylaxis.
I don’t want to read about allergic reactions or deaths due to anaphylaxis because of a lack of knowledge or education. I want to read about the good that people and communities are doing to promote awareness. I want to read about food establishments embracing the fact that allergies are on the rise and taking the steps required to ensure they can accommodate all their guests safely, the allergic and non-allergic alike.
(Motion was presented at approx. 6:07)