For People With Food Allergies, Simple Negligence Can Be Fatal

Last month, a negative review of a Starbucks coffee went viral after the writer, who suffers from lactose intolerance, said that he was literally writing the review from his toilet after being served a drink with regular milk instead of soy milk. This particular customer approached the issue with humor, but for plenty of other people, food allergies are no laughing matter.

The most common food allergens include:

  • Wheat
  • Dairy
  • Nuts, particularly peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Soy

Living With Food Allergies

Food allergies can range from mild to incredibly severe. Depending on the allergy, symptoms might be either gastrointestinal, respiratory, or both. Gastrointestinal symptoms, which mainly affect people with gluten and dairy allergies, might include cramping, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, or bloating. Non-gastrointestinal symptoms of an allergic reaction include difficulty swallowing, hives, itching, and shortness of breath. In extreme cases, an allergy-sufferer can also experience anaphylaxis, which affects breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate. Without immediate treatment, it can be fatal.

No matter the symptoms, allergic reactions are something that people strive to avoid. Because of this, people with food allergies need to take special care to avoid allergens in their environment. They have to take precautions with all foods, like asking to see ingredient lists at restaurants, and avoiding home-baked goods. Some people also carry an EpiPen, an auto-injector that contains epinephrine, which can reverse an allergic reaction. Living with a severe allergy can be stressful and isolating.


Since people with allergies put so much effort in preventing reactions, restaurants and companies should approach allergies with the same care and respect. Any business that prepares or serves food should be aware of potential allergens, and use reasonable care to prevent allergic reactions. This includes labeling potential allergens, preparing allergen-containing foods in separate areas with separate utensils, and recalling products that contain undeclared allergens. If a restaurant or other business knowingly or negligently mishandles an allergen, they may be held liable for any harm that occurs.

Of course, some of the responsibility falls on the consumer. If someone does not let people know about their allergy, others cannot reasonably be expected to know. However, this often means that determining liability for an allergy-related incident can be very difficult.

By taking steps to identity allergens and avoiding negligent, restaurants and companies can make foods safer for everyone to enjoy.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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