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How Restaurants And Bars Can Avoid Allergy Risks

by William E. Adams and Rana Nader
August 19, 2015

William Adams' and Rana Nader's article, "How Restaurants And Bars Can Avoid Allergy Risks," was published in Law360 on August 19, 2015.

From the article...

"As awareness surrounding the issue grows, restaurants should be concerned over the growing population of patrons with specific food allergies. Patrons can suffer serious, or even deadly, allergic reactions to foods or beverages containing adverse ingredients. It is estimated that 15 million Americans — 2 to 6 percent of the population — suffer from some form of food allergy. Fortunately, 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions in the United States can be attributed to eight particular foods: peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, walnuts and pecans), milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) estimates that approximately 200 people die from an adverse allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, each year.
In order to reduce the risk of a patron developing a food allergy, restaurant staff should understand that food allergies are actually serious allergic disorders, not simply food preferences by picky customers. One part of addressing potential liability is for a restaurant or eatery to prepare, and implement, a written plan when a customer identifies a particular food allergy. A restaurant will not likely be liable if it serves a dish containing an ingredient that causes an allergic reaction, as long as the restaurant was not aware of the allergy. A customer can even ask for a substitution, though a restaurant does not have to comply. However, problems arise when a guest inquires about specific ingredients, when coupled with the notice that he or she is allergic something. As a best practice, the kitchen should assume that the identified food allergy is life-threatening, scrub every pot and remake foods without that particular ingredient. State laws are designed to protect customers and ensure that restaurants are mindful of food allergies during meal preparation. However, civil liability to a restaurant begins in circumstances whereby a customer has identified a food allergy in advance and the restaurant still serves that customer food or drink containing the allergen, resulting in an adverse allergic reaction."

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