Under the Massachusetts Food Allergy Awareness Act (“FAAA”) all food establishments that cook, prepare, or serve food intended for immediate consumption, either on or off the premises, are required to comply with regulations developed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Many food establishments are not in compliance with the FAAA regulations, which were to be fully implemented by 2011. The FAAA regulations require that:

  1. The food establishment must prominently display a food allergy awareness poster in the staff area of the food establishment. The food allergen safety poster and other guidance materials can be obtained from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Food Protection Program website, http://mass.gov/dph/fpp. Food establishments must use the approved poster.
  2. The food establishment must include a notice on all menus which contains the specific language required by the regulations alerting consumers with food allergies. The notice must state: “Before placing your order, please inform your server if a person in your party has a food allergy”. Food establishments are required to use this specific language.
  3. The food establishment must have on staff a food protection manager who must have been issued a certificate of allergen awareness training by an allergen awareness training verification program recognized by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health as an approved vendor. This requirement is in addition to any other food or beverage safety measures the food establishment has adopted.

Under the FAAA regulations, the major food allergens are: milk, eggs, fish (such as bass, flounder or cod), crustaceans (such as crab, lobster, or shrimp), tree nuts (such as almonds, pecans, or walnuts), wheat, peanuts, and soybeans, and a food ingredient that contains protein derived from any of these foods.

If a food establishment fails to comply with the FAAA regulations, the local board of health is authorized to require corrective action or impose fines or other enforcement actions. If there is an accidental ingestion of an allergen by a consumer at a food establishment that suggests there may be an imminent health hazard, the food establishment is required to report the incident to the local board of health to ensure preventive measures have been taken.