Oyster Bay Town Councilman Steve Labriola, Supervisor Joseph Saladino and local families gathered today at John J. Burns Park in Massapequa to unveil new playground signs to protect children impacted by food allergies. To help raise awareness and educate the public about the dangers of food allergies, new ‘Food Allergy Alert’ signs ask residents to not let children eat on the playground and to clean the hands of their children after eating. This initiative was launched after learning of children who experienced ‘contact reactions’ at local playgrounds caused by food. Councilman Labriola stated, “Children are our most precious resource and we must do all we can to protect their health and safety. With food allergies on the rise, it’s important that we help keep kids with food allergies safe without creating a hardship for those who like to pack a snack when they go to the park. If the signs reach even just one family and make them stop and think twice before allowing their children to eat on playgrounds, then it is beneficial, and could even avoid an allergic reaction.”Food allergies are a growing safety and health concern that affect an estimated 8% of children in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 1 in 13 children, or about 2 students per classroom, have a food allergy that occurs when the body has a specific and reproducible immune response to certain foods. The body’s immune response can be severe and life threatening. Although the immune system normally protects people from germs, in people with food allergies, the immune system mistakenly responds to food as if it were harmful. Supervisor Saladino added, “As every parent of an allergic child knows, food ingredients hide in surprising places. We certainly don’t want to keep a child from having a snack while at the park, but we want people to understand how important it is that they do not eat on the play equipment and that they clean their hands properly before returning to play. Let’s keep all children safe by making our playgrounds food-free.” There is no cure for food allergies. Strict avoidance of the food allergen is the only way to prevent a reaction. Eight foods or food groups account for most serious allergic reactions in the United States: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts.