Governor Gavin Newsom has signed legislation spearheaded by 11-year-old Zacky Muñoz, changing the landscape for students with food allergies. The Muñoz Student Allergy Framework for Emergencies (SAFE) Act – AB 1651 (Sanchez) – will impact the nearly half a million students with food allergies in California. The law will help reduce the likelihood of lethal allergic reactions on school campuses by ensuring that the location and use of on-campus epinephrine auto-injectors (EAIs) are known and accessible to school staff and requires the school to retain a physical copy of instructions near the site of epinephrine.
The bill allows those with an Activity Supervisor Clearance Certificate to be designated by schools to receive training to administer epinephrine during emergencies. This means thousands of individuals, including engaged parents, after-school program staff, and coaches, will be able to treat students having an allergic reaction.
“Thank you, Governor Newsom, for helping to make our schools safer and sending a powerful message to California students that we matter,” Muñoz said. “This is an important event for kids with food allergies. We know our voices can make big changes in the world, and I am so proud to be part of making a difference for kids like me.”
Muñoz has first-hand experience with the importance of having EAIs nearby when a child has an allergic reaction. Muñoz has life-threatening food allergies and suffered two anaphylactic reactions in first grade while on campus.
Zacky is not new to championing legislation to help his food allergy community. He helped author AB 2640, known as “The Zacky Bill,” which was signed into law by Governor Newsom in 2022. That law ensures that a state resource guide with the most available and comprehensive information regarding food allergy resources, current laws, and methods to identify ingredients, and comprehensive information regarding food allergy resources, current laws, and methods to identify ingredients is available on the California Department of Education website. The site launched at the beginning of the 2023 school year.
Anaphylaxis is a potentially lethal allergic reaction. Epinephrine is the line of treatment for someone who is experiencing anaphylaxis. Without prompt use of an auto-injector, allergic reactions can be severe and even fatal. Unfortunately, the prompt use of EAIs before professional medical care is not as common as it should be. A recent study found that the application of epinephrine before patients’ hospitalization has been suboptimal and that there “is a need for easier access to EAIs in public places.”
Currently, California requires school districts to “provide emergency epinephrine auto-injectors to school nurses or trained personnel” to ensure that schools have the tools they need to intervene in anaphylaxis. However, many schools do not have full-time nurses or other personnel authorized to administer EAIs during school hours and after-school programming. The Muñoz Student Allergy Framework for Emergencies Act can add thousands of people to the pool of those trained and available in case of an anaphylactic reaction at school.
According to the Food Allergy Research Education (FARE) organization, as many as 33 million Americans suffer from life-threatening allergies. This accounts for a 377% increase in the diagnosis of anaphylactic food reactions between 2007 and 2016. Of this population, 1 in 13 are children who rely on parents, caregivers, teachers, and school administrators to keep them safe while at school.