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Who’s responsible when it comes to allergens, restaurants or diners?

Couple eating dinner in very good restaurant

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Head out to a restaurant, and chances are you'll see a warning somewhere if the establishment uses peanuts in its dishes.

Now, multiply that warning by eight.

A new proposal by a New York City-based councillor would require all restaurants to list up to eight allergens if they are used in a particular dish.

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Is this idea doing a helpful service to consumers, or is it food policing gone too far?

The councillor in question, David Greenfield, told the New York Daily News that "consumers have a right to know whether something in their hamburger is going to kill them."

Under the proposal, restaurants would need to post a warning if a particular dish contains peanuts, eggs, nuts, milk, wheat, fish, soy or shellfish.

Greenfield told the New York Daily News the idea was prompted after a Facebook friend's son suffered an allergic reaction to peanuts after eating a dish at a restaurant they had been assured was nut-free.

It seems strange to think that someone with a deathly allergy would start chowing down at a restaurant before checking the ingredient list with the waiter. For people with severe allergies, that has become a way of life. And there's no telling if new warnings would do away with that. People with allergies are still likely to grill their server over the exact ingredients in the dish they're interested in ordering. There's also no guarantee against cross-contamination. For instance, peanuts may not be in a particular dish, but a person could suffer a reaction if a knife used to chop peanuts was also used to chop ingredients in a "nut-free" dish.

On the other hand, perhaps this is a necessary move at a time when more people are eating out and food allergies are on the rise.

Is this latest food-policing move going a step too far?

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