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Food and Nutrition Programs

Guidelines for Allergen Awareness Regulation and Exemptions

To:All Child Nutrition Program Directors and Sponsors
From:Kathleen C. Millett, Executive Director, Office for Nutrition, Health and Safety Programs; Kim Foley, Acting Director, MDPH/BEH Food Protection Program
Date:October 12, 2010

On June 9, 2010, the State Sanitary Code, Chapter X: Minimum Sanitation Standards for Food Establishments (105 CMR 590.000)  was amended in order implement requirements of the Allergen Awareness Act, M.G.L. c. 140, § 6B. Public and private schools, educational institutions, summer camps, childcare facilities, and other child care programs approved to participate in US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) may qualify for an exemption to this law. This memorandum provides information about the law and the exemption. This act responds to increased concerns/ incidence of severe allergies in the general population, especially among children. The purpose of the Act is to minimize risk of illness and death due to accidental ingestion of food allergens by increasing food industry and consumer awareness of regulations and best practices with respect to major food allergens. This regulation applies to food establishments that cook, prepare, or serve food intended for immediate consumption either on or off the premises. There are three components to the regulation:
  1. Display of an approved food allergen awareness poster,
  2. Menu notices advising customers to inform the server before placing an order, about the customer's allergy to a major food allergen,
  3. Food allergen awareness training.
Enforcement will take place in two stages. The first phase, beginning October 1, 2010, will include in food safety inspections the review of poster display and menu notice as compliance with Allergen Awareness in a similar fashion to Anti-choking and Tobacco requirements. (See attached Inspection Report.) After February 1, 2011, completion of food allergen awareness training will be included in the inspection. Non-compliance with this component of the regulation will be included as part of Food Protection Management (Knowledgeable PIC) in the area of critical violations. The exemption of any CNP program is contingent upon
  1. Written policies and procedures for identifying, documenting, and accommodating students with food allergies, and
  2. Documentation verifying participation in food allergen training recognized by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH).
Each of these conditions is based upon current resources provided by USDA and ESE.
  1. Documentation, policies and practices are included in the following guidance documents:
    1. Accommodating Children with Special Dietary Needs in the School Nutrition Programs . This document clearly defines food anaphylaxis (sever food allergies) as a disability for which dietary accommodations must be made. Foods must be omitted and substituted based on a licensed physician's statement.
    2. Managing Life Threatening Food Allergies in Schools Download PDF Document. This manual outlines specific responsibilities, including setting up policies for the cafeteria regarding food allergic students, making appropriate substitutions after receiving a doctor's note, reading all food labels and recheck routinely for potential food allergens, training all food service staff and their substitutes to read product food labels and recognize food allergens, maintaining contact information for manufacturers of food products, and following cleaning and sanitizing protocols to avoid cross-contamination.
    3. USDA required school wellness policies also recommend addressing student nutrition, health as well providing "safe, enjoyable meal environment for students."
  2. Food allergen workshops conducted by ESE and the John Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition are recognized training on food allergies and intolerances, major food allergens, and reading labels for potential allergic ingredients and other practices to reduce the risk of illness and death due to accidental ingestion of food allergens. Furthermore, we have approved participation in workshops offered with the release of Managing Life Threatening Food Allergies in Schools. If you have participated in these workshops, contact the provider to receive verification of participation. For MA ESE, contact Jean Anthony at 781-338-6457 (; for JSI, call 508-626-4756 or email @ Certificate of participation by the school nutrition manager/PIC should be posted with the food protection manager certificate.
If a school or other child nutrition program cannot show evidence of compliance with USDA/ESE requirements and recommendations, it will be the responsibility of the person in charge at the site/school to follow 105 CMR 590.009 (H) as it applies to all food establishments. This includes:
  • a notice on menus and menu boards requesting a customer to notify the server about the customer's food allergy
  • displaying an approved food allergen poster (See attached poster)
  • and, beginning in February, 2011 demonstrate participation in DPH approved training.
While Child Nutrition Programs may be exempt from displaying the food allergen poster, we encourage all public and private schools, educational institutions, summer camps, childcare facilities, and other child care programs to use this in the program settings. Attachments:
  1. Amendments to 105 CMR 590.000 adopted by Public Health Council
  2. Inspection report approved by MDPH as per 105 CMR 590.013(E)(1)
  3. Poster approved by MDPH as per 105 CMR 590.009(H)(1)
  4. ESE Food Allergy Awareness Workshops 2010

Last Updated: October 12, 2010

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

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