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Whitco

State's recipe for concern


Allergy, calorie rules set



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Whether a fast-food eatery or bistro, a new state law will require restaurants to post potential allergens in their recipes. Establishments with 20 or more locations must already post calorie counts. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
August 17, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — As a new law requiring restaurants to list the potential allergens in their dishes starts taking effect this month, several local owners admit they don't yet know much about it.

But they are already rather leery of an existing rule that requires chains having 20 or more restaurants to list the caloric content of the foods.

One such person is Gene Ryan, owner of Geno's on Central Street. He notes listing allergens a place uses would be fair to consumers, although he notes owners have no real control over what other things are made in the places they might obtain their ingredients.

But requiring data on calories, fat content and the like "would be improbable on a cost basis" for smaller, mom-and-pop restaurants, he said.

"I have no idea, but it'd probably cost a lot," Ryan said when asked to guesstimate such a cost. "You'd have to hire somebody to break down your menu."

At issue is the fact 4-5 percent of the American population, around 12 million people, have an allergy to one or more foods, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) website (www.foodallergy.org).

"Eight foods account for 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions in the U.S.: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (e.g., walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans), wheat, soy, fish and shellfish," the site states.

Like any other allergy, food allergies hit people with varying degrees of severity, from mild symptoms such as itchiness or a rash to life-threatening anaphylactic shock, in which the person rapidly becomes unable to breathe.

In the fare at Central BBQ on Central Street, the most notable risk is fish, co-owner Jose Aquino said. Some people "don't want [their food] cooked in the same oil," but the issue is a rare one.

See Thursday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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