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February 8, 2007

What was she thinking? A peanut allergy dining mishap

Once again I've read something that just doesnt make sense. A woman with a peanut allergy went into a Thai restaurant and asked for a peanut free dish...

[she] informed the waiters at a Thai restaurant in Newtown of her allergy, ordered dishes unlikely to have peanut in them and was reassured repeatedly that there were no nuts in her meal. Nonetheless there was peanut in her food and her allergic reaction was so severe she was left with permanent brain damage. Townsend was 32 at the time and a mother of two young children. In 2000, the restaurant paid an undisclosed sum, out of court, for her ongoing medical care.

Does anyone see the root of the problem here? I'm pretty sure the woman is in the wrong for going into an Thai place and asking for assurance there wouldn't be peanut in her meal. Can you spell cross contamination? Sure, it can happen anywhere but the ODDS of it happening in a Thai restaurant must be 100 times greater than in a burger joint.

To top it off, the restaurant paid "an undisclosed sum" to her. I hope that undislosed sum is less than $100. Should the restaurant have promised anything to a person with a food allergy, especially peanut allergy? No, probably not.

Sometimes its simply a case of buyer beware. Let's be more than safe; let's be smart.

Posted by David at February 8, 2007 7:00 PM


That's a bit harsh on the part of this mom, I think. Yes, she should have known better. But as a mom of 1-year old with allergies, I'm already frustrated at how little servers know about the food they are serving. I haven't even dined out that often with our little boy, but already I'm amazed at how thrown off they are by the question "does this have any egg or dairy in it?" Each time, I've been nervous about the food I'm providing my child (foods ordered were broth-based soup, marinara pasta, and mashed sweet potato.) As a mom, it's my job to stay informed and make the best decision possible, but it's irritating when you wonder if your server really knows if there is a dollop of cream, or butter in your dish. So, yes, she should have known that a Thai restaurant would generally always have peanut contamination. But I think the restaurant is mostly at fault here - they need to adequately educate their staff when lives are at stake.

PS. Thanks for your blog. I appreciate the information you provide.

Posted by: Carrie B. at February 9, 2007 7:23 AM

I'd have to say that the ultimate responsibility for the management of my allergy (or my child's allergy) lies with me. We *do* need to be aware of cuisines and avoid eating at places where cross contamination is a real threat. I'm very careful with my son's dairy and gluten allergy, and I know where cross contamination is a threat... I choose carefully, even though his allergy is not life threatening.

In this case, did the restaurant make a mistake? Yes, if they promised peanut free food -- but it's not their responsibility to understand the severity of all allergies. If an allergy is VERY severe, it's still the responsibility of the person to communicate that and be sure. Otherwise, we're all just victims and potential sitting ducks.

Posted by: Monique Attinger at February 12, 2007 6:29 PM