27 March 2015

11 year old boy dies due to food allergic reaction because of mislableing

USAToday.com full article: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2015/03/24/family-sues-publix-wrongful-death/70381282/

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-. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm a man who has lived many years with an egg allergy.

    While my condolences go out to the child's family, I must interject that they should have known better.

    Having lived with an egg allergy, I have been spending years closely investigating ingredients lists when I shop, making sure that there's absolutely no way I will end up in a bad situation. Furthermore, I keep track of foods that commonly contain, or are made in factories which use, egg so I know what kind of products to avoid.

    Despite what that particular Publix may or may not have had immediately at the counter, EVERY SINGLE BOX of cookies anywhere will say that the product may contain traces of nuts due to the facilities they were made in.

    When it comes to me, and cookies, I closely read through the ingredients multiple times to make sure there was no egg used in or around the product. And you certainly NEVER EVER buy fresh bakery and expect it to be free of allergens, because fresh baked goods are the ones MOST LIKELY to contain (even traces of) allergens.

    They should have asked, to be sure, about the allergen information, because even if it wasn't right there on the counter, they DO have that information available for those who ASK.

    It is a terrible, tragic shame that a child has passed away due to a minor negligent mistake.


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