Documentary Airs on Giorgi Tragedy as Advocacy Moves Ahead

in Food Allergy, Food Allergy News, Peanut & Tree Nut
Published: March 25, 2019

Joanne, Natalie and Louis Giorgi
Update: California’s Governor signed the Natalie Giorgi Sunshine Act, described below, into law on July 30, 2019.

A California PBS station aired a documentary in late March 2019 about Natalie Giorgi’s death from anaphylaxis and the mission her family has been on to educate others about severe food allergies. As Allergic Living has learned, their advocacy now includes a new food safety and training bill in their home state of California.

Natalie died while at a camp with her family in the Eldorado National Forest near Sacramento after taking a bite of a Rice Krispie treat that turned out to contain peanut butter. At first, she didn’t show any symptoms. But within 20 minutes, she began to suffer a systemic reaction. She passed away even though her father, a physician, gave her three successive doses of epinephrine.

The documentary, called “Food for Thought,” aired on PBS. (See trailer below.) In the time since their daughter’s death, Louis and Joanne Giorgi have been advocating for food allergy readiness and training. This began with Joanne Giorgi testifying before the California Senate committee for a bill supporting stock epinephrine availability in public schools. The bill passed in 2014.

Documentary, Now Sunshine Act

The Giorgis tell Allergic Living that they are now working to help move forward a bill – California Assembly Bill 1532 – which is at the committee phase. While existing California law requires the person in charge of a food facility to have passed a food safety certification and know the major allergens and the symptoms of food allergy, the new bill goes much further.

It sets out that permanent food facilities – those which work with “non-prepackaged food” – would need to include “all food handlers” in training on allergens and symptoms. In addition, they must get food safety certification. For managers, the latter would involve getting accredited by “a nationally organized allergy organization.”

If passed, Bill 1532 would be known as the Natalie Giorgi Sunshine Act. The bill, which amends the California Retail Food Code, would cover retail food operations, public and private school cafeterias, camps, and catering operations.

“It will require food allergy and cross-contamination training for all food handlers in all food facilities, including camps,” the Giorgis wrote to Allergic Living.

In the documentary, Natalie Giorgi’s identical twin sister speaks publicly for the first time about the impact of losing her sister. “It’s been hard in terms of figuring out life without her, especially starting high school,” says Danielle Giorgi, who also has food allergies.

The 19-year-old is speaking up so that “people realize that it [food allergy] is serious and that even the littlest thing can set it off. It’s not something to joke about or take lightly.”

Below is the PBS documentary trailer.