An Alabama family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Publix Super Markets Inc. because of their 11-year-old son's death after eating a cookie they say was mislabeled from a store in Clarksville.
Derek "Landon" Wood, 11, of Sterrett, Ala., died of anaphylactic shock on June 3, 2014, after eating a cookie from the local Publix, which the family says had not been marked as containing a food allergen.
At a bakery counter that displayed ready-to-eat desserts such as cookies, brownies, pastries and muffins, there were no signs at or behind-the-counter warning of allergens or cross-contamination with allergens, the lawsuit said.
According to the lawsuit, before purchasing the cookie, Cline was told by a supermarket associate that a chocolate cookie, called a "Chocolate Chew," did not contain any tree nut allergens.
No label on the cookie disclosed the presence of allergens or a list of ingredients, the lawsuit said.
When the family returned home, Cline took a bite of the cookie, saw there were no nuts, and gave the rest to her son. Landon had three bites of the cookie and was sure there was something in it because his mouth was burning, the lawsuit said.
The cookie did contain walnuts.
-------------------------------Our take at Food Allergy Gal----------------------------------------
While Food Allergy Gal is not in favor of starting lawsuits for the sake of starting one, this is an area where I feel like we should be doing more in our community. Proper labeling is not only required by the FDA on packaged foods for 8 major allergens, but should just be good common sense practice.
People aren't taking food allergies seriously and there is no mandated requirement for food service professionals to be properly trained on the consequences of mislabeling or not taking proper precautions in food service. We (the food service industry) all need to be trained from the grower to the restaurant.
There are over 170 different foods known to cause allergic reactions. Allergic reactions can be deadly within seconds. While epinephrine is a medication that may stop anaphylaxis from finishing it's cycle (which is death), there is not a 100% guarantee. The medication cost over $350 for each dose usually, but is absolutely required for those with food allergies.
Today in the United States over 15 million people have been diagnosed and reported as having food allergies that can be life threatening. Globally the number soars above 220 million people.
The biggest trend we are seeing today is adult onset food allergies <---- (yes that is plural). Multiple food allergies are being diagnosed in adults for the very first time in their life. These allergies go way off just what the US deems as the major 8.
There is a support group with over 300 members (www.FAadults.org) devoted to late onset food allergic adults. These adults ate normally for most of their lives until one day their immune systems decided to go haywire. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Anaphylaxis does not discriminate. All ages, ethnicities and genders can face anaphylaxis to any one or multiple foods found in the 170 reported.
This is where clean labeling of all products becomes essential. Any product found anywhere that contains any food ingredient should be labeled in plain language. For example, if a soap contains citric acid and avocado, it should clearly state, "Contains citrus and avocado." If a restaurant has a Meatball Sandwich on the menu it should have a separate menu, book or e-menu that defines every ingredient (ex. tomato, beef, veal, parmesan cheese (milk), corn meal, wheat, egg, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, sugar). The reason why: because someone may have a garlic and dairy allergy and the staff may not be thinking of those "minor" ingredients so they recite something simple and seemingly harmless like, "so you should be fine."
Customers with food allergies also need to take responsibility and ensure everyone in the process knows they have a food allergy, even if it might not seem like banana would be in that salad, but you just never know what might hiding in the dressing. It's important to triple check though. To save time, just do clean labeling upfront. It can get annoying after the 80th person has walked thru the door and said, "what's in that?" or "does the main dish have ____,_____,____ in it?" So be prepared up front whenever possible.
Trust me it pays off royally in the end. Food Allergic guests, their friends, family members, and co-workers will become loyal patrons if they know they can safely be accommodated in your facility or with your product that's on the shelf that has simple, plain language ingredients listed on them. -Avoid the lawsuit and especially avoid having death on your hands, where a mistake could have been prevented-.