Last week Gov. Rick Scott signed into law House Bill 1131 titled the Emergency Allergy Treatment Pack. It was offered up as a new bill by State Sen. Aaron Bean and State Representative, Matt Hudson. The purpose of the law is to allow many public facilities, such as amusement parks, sports leagues, camps, city parks, restaurants and other businesses to maintain a large number of epinephrine auto injecting emergency treatment shots for use when their patrons become ill. These shots are very easy to administer and can save someone’s life by stopping the body from entering anaphylactic shock after eating an allergen.
By definition, anaphylaxis is the body’s reaction to having a foreign substance(s) enter the body that it cannot integrate. A condition causes a person’s mouth and throat to close to the point that it stops the patient from being able to breathe. Many things can cause a person to go into anaphylactic shock. The most common of these are peanuts and tree nuts, like pine nuts, plus fish, especially shellfish.
Many people carry around their own medication. This medication usually comes in the form of an EpiPen, which can introduce epinephrine into the body to reduce the body’s reaction to the allergen. One of the big problems is that many times people do not know they have such serious allergies. Allergies are sneaky. They can build up over time, so the first time you have pine nuts you may feel queasy. The next time you have pine nuts your lips they get swollen and you feel bad. Then, one day, you’re sitting in an Italian restaurant and your friend orders pesto pasta. Pesto commonly contains pine nuts. What happens next is a complete surprise. You immediately feel sick. Your lips and eyes get puffy very quickly. You start to feel like you have a grapefruit in the middle of your chest. It becomes hard to breathe. You are now in the throes of anaphylactic shock. You must get to a hospital or there is a significant possibility you will die.
That is the reason for this new law. Over the past decade, food allergies in America have skyrocketed. Scientists do not know exactly why, but the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention has tracked food allergy cases rising more than 18% from 1997 to 2007. Since 2007, the problem has only gotten worse!
Now many businesses have the ability to stock up the pens so that when their customers or their patrons become allergic to the food they serve, getting treatment will be much easier. The patient, even after getting it at the shop, will need to go to the doctor to keep check. But in a huge majority of instances, EpiPen will solve the problem.
The law wisely included a limitation on civil liability for administering the EpiPen medical treatment. The EpiPen treatment is not without dangers. Epinephrine can cause the heart to race, and it could cause a heart attack in the wrong person. That is why, even if the EpiPen works, the person should go to the hospital or see a doctor after suffering an anaphylactic reaction.
Let us turn the question around. Now that there is a law that provides notice and warning to businesses that serve food that can be highly allergenic, is there a duty to carry the EpiPen treatment? I do not believe the law forces businesses to get EpiPen. But that does not mean that a business that serves peanuts, pinenuts and seafood should not have them as a matter of care for their customers if one of the customers has an allergic reaction to the food they serve. I believe it does! If your restaurant serves highly allergenic food, and you know a certain number of people will have an allergic reaction even though they may have no prior warning, it is your duty to carry these EpiPen in train to administer them properly. That argument may or may not hold up in a court of law, but I believe it is a moral duty, and I hope restaurants take this law to heart and start carrying EpiPens immediately!
I hope you and our loved ones never have an anaphylactic reaction, but if you do while you are in a restaurant, please call my office; we are interested in helping in that instance.