It’s got to be tough to have a food allergy. Going out to eat is one of the most common ways people connect and spend time together.
For those with allergies, going out to eat can be a life-threatening decision. Thousands of people each year suffer allergic reactions to food — the worst of these cases don’t live to eat another meal.
In addition to limited food options, those with sensitive food allergies must ask about meal preparation.
We all remember how McDonalds got in trouble in the 1990s when it was discovered their supposedly vegetarian French fries were cooked in beef tallow.
In 2015, 18-year-old Shahida Shahid of Worsley, England, came in to dine at the Almost Famous restaurant in The Great Northern. She had a severe dairy allergy and discussed options with her server.
Her server assured her that she could have the chicken sandwich. She did so and collapsed an hour later. As it turned out, the chicken had been cooked in buttermilk.
Three days later, Shahid was dead. She’d suffered traumatic brain injury as a result of cardiac arrest. The incident sparked an official inquiry by the Manchester Crown Court.
Detective Constable (DC) Robert Ashurst visited the restaurant after learning of the collapse over police radio. He spoke to Head chef Liam Tse, Second Chef Mathieu Pierre, and Assistant Manger Adam McKenna.
Tse told the constable that the tragedy was a “terrible mistake.” The barman, Reiss Balfour, who had experience dealing with food allergies, confirmed he took the order and passed along the information to Pierre’s side of the kitchen who would be making the meal.
The DC asked Tse why he had not personally monitored the special order. He had little answer other than the kitchen was very busy that night.
Despite the staff being “remorseful” and “disappointed” by the outcome of that night, the restaurant has done nothing to change its practices.
They believe that the systems they have in place work, but human error failed them that night.
While the outcome of the inquiry has not been released, what isn’t going to change is the loss of a young girl’s life just as it had begun. The question has become was this a “terrible mistake” or negligent behavior.
Alongside the prevalence of severe food allergies is the growing fad of claiming allergies to avoid foods we dislike or are trying to avoid for dietary reasons. Perhaps the height of this trend has been the prevalence of gluten allergy claims over the last five years.
Claiming “allergies” when “preferences” would be more apt contributes to the likelihood of tragedies such as the untimely death of Shahid. It’s tantamount to “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”
As more people claim “allergies,” restaurant workers at all levels become desensitized to the potentially deadly consequences of lazy observance. Still, some people feel that those with allergies should be more cautious about where they eat as cross-contamination in any kitchen would be likely.
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