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Ed Normand
Ed Normand
Attorney • (866) 735-1102 Ext 336

Dangerous Food Allergens in Theme Park and Other Corporate Restaurants

3 comments

One reason why tourist are attracted to Disney, Universal, Sea World and other theme parks is the belief that they can rely on the Parks to ensure that they not only have safe premises and rides, but also that the food they serve in the parks is safe. What the public does not know is that, due to secrecy in reporting of injury claims and disclosure protections afforded theme parks and other businesses, many restaurant chains, including theme park restaurants may not be safely and accurately labeling and warning customers regarding the presence of dangerous allergens in food. Dangerous food borne illnesses are a severe problem and they cause thousands of deaths each year.

Here is a recent example: A Canadian guest recently came to Orlando and picked a major theme park for the family vacation. She selected this park and its hotels because she felt she could rely on the accuracy of the food ingredient lists more than she could from a random resort. Of course, she paid top dollar for the privilege of using the Parks amenities. The reason why the guest was so concerned is that the guest had a dangerous food allergy. If she ate any food that contained the allergen her body would develop anaphylactic shock and she could quickly die.

To protect herself she first verified the foods that none of her allergen by speaking with the manager. After that she asked for and got the food ingredient list from the theme park restaurant manager. It clearly showed that the food she selected (for that very reason) did not contain the allergen. Only after clearly reading the ingredient list did she order that food. Now you probably guess what happened, the allergen was in her food. Not only that, it was a primary (but tasteless, hidden) ingredient.

Suddenly she started to get anaphylactic shock. That means that she had a severe allergic reaction where her immune system uncontrollably tries to reject and fight the allergen in her body. To do so the body produces chemicals such as histamine and serotonin into the blood stream and body systems. The effect of the reaction by the immune system can include contraction of the breathing passages and dilated blood vessels. This can develop into swelling of the lungs and blockages of the throat air passages due to swelling. This can block the passage of air to lungs and the heart with potential death and brain damage. Other bothersome and oftentimes life threatening symptoms can also result, but the most troubling is the potential for life-threatening pulmonary and circulatory system collapse.

Thankfully, she was prepared with an injection device sometimes called an EpiPen that she used to administer epinephrine to fight the body's rejection of the allergen and combat the symptoms of anaphylactic shock. She then was rushed to the emergency room. Thankfully her life was saved but she is now at risk of further more severe attacks from any subsequent exposure to the allergen. In other words, next time the reaction is likely to be more severe and could kill her because her body is more armed to fight the allergen from this exposure.

After the fact she learned that the theme park, knew that the food had the allergen and knew that it was mislabeled. It appears that they had changed the ingredients but had failed to notify the restaurant management and had failed to update the food ingredient list. So the ingredient list that she was provided, upper management knew was false and inaccurate. We still do not know why they failed to put the correct ingredient list in the paperwork when they knew it was incorrect and knew it had allergens in the modified ingredient list.

The moral of the story is that one cannot rely on the verbal and written ingredient lists put out by major corporate food businesses to always be reliable. Be safe and if you know you have a food allergy, even if it is not, at present, life threatening have a plan in place just in case. You never know when a negligently dangerous mislabeling of food ingredients will happen. As you can see, it happens in even the best of places.

A legal claim is now being made with the Theme Park to see if they will fairly make amends for this terrible neglect that ruined a family's vacation and almost took a life. A question we have for the theme park is whether they will they take responsibility for the future damage from the possibility that future exposures for the rest of her life will be more dangerous and more life threatening if she is ever exposed to the allergen again. We will keep you posted.

3 Comments

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  1. Paul Antico says:
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    There is no medical proof to support the following:

    “she is now at risk of further more severe attacks from any subsequent exposure to the allergen. In other words, next time the reaction is likely to be more severe and could kill her because her body is more armed to fight the allergen from this exposure.”

    And while it would seem to make sense to the lay person, every allergist will tell you that the severity of any given reaction has no correlation to any past reactions. Usually they will tell someone with food allergies this so they don’t get complacent if they have a mild reaction to an allergen, but the reverse is true too.

    Besides, how much more severe can you get than anaphylaxis? The only more severe reaction would be biphasic anaphylaxis, but again there is no correlation.

  2. Ana Phylaxis says:
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    @ Paul: Subsequent reactions are LIKELY to be worse. LIKELY. What can be worse than anaphylaxis? More sudden onset anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis that does not respond to epinephrine.

    The best course of action is vigilance and avoidance.

    Are you a top in your field allergist? I didn’t think so.

  3. Ed Normand says:
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    Thank you for your comments. I think we can be civil and discuss this at the same time. As to the issue of subsequent reactions being “likely” more severe as a result of a past reaction, this is the opinion, or at least the warning, of the treating allergist. While we all know not to believe everything we read on the web, there is some support for this from a quick search:”the potential to develop more severe symptoms of anaphylaxis increases with each subsequent exposure.” See http://www.mdguidelines.com/anaphylactic-shock/definition. So it may not be more likely but the potential certainly exists that each subsequent exposure will result in a quicker and more severe anaphylactic shock. Statements to the effect that all cases of anaphylactic shock are the same and always of equal intensity and danger are incorrect. Nobody knows precisely how much increased risk for more severe reactions comes from each subsequent exposure and it would be hard to devise such a study on humans. The point is, at least to this person, she is now in more fear and on more heightened alert of this danger. Not a great feeling every time one sits down to eat a meal out.

    The bigger points to focus on are the dangers of anaphylaxis to vigilant and conscientious customers and the carelessness of some companies in providing for the safety of consumers whose money they accept. What more can the consumer do than eat at a big company restaurant for safety, then specifically ask the manager about the ingredients, then get and read the ingredient list and still the consumer gets a food containing potentially deadly allergens! The whole time the company had documentation that the allergen was in the food, they just did not bother to update the information. Clearly, even large chain restaurants and theme parks are not always careful about the dangers presented by allergens to consumers paying for the meals they serve.