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Are Restaurants Liable For Food Allergies

Can A Restaurant Be Liable For Food Allergies

Coping With Food Allergies

Yes, a restaurant can be liable for food allergies. Whether a restaurant has legal liability or harm caused by a food allergy depends on whether the restaurant was negligent. If the customer expresses concerns that go unaddressed or if the restaurant fails to take precautions for common allergies, they may be liable to a customer when harm results from a food allergy.

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Am I Liable If Someone Has An Allergic Reaction To My Product

An estimated 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 1 in every 13 children. Every three minutes, someone is rushed to the emergency room for an allergic reaction to a food allergy.

Nearly 90 percent of food-allergic reactions are caused by milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, wheat, soy, and shellfish. With the prevalence of food allergies, can you be held liable if someone has an allergic reaction to your food products?


We can’t protect our customers from all harm. We can’t protect them from themselves. Food producers and restaurants are generally not liable for injuries or allergic reactions unless they were acting negligently. To prove negligence, a customer would have to show that a business had a breached a duty and caused a customer damage.

Courts have not recognized a duty to exclude all allergens from food products and protect all customers from allergic reactions.

Duty to Warn

However, restaurants and food producers may have a duty to warn customers about allergens.

Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004

Recognizing that a significant amount of the population suffered from food allergies, and the potential deadly affect of that condition, Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. The act requires that the label of a food that contains a “major food allergen” ingredient must clearly declare the presence of the allergen.

State laws

Related Resources:

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Criminal Law And The Labelling Of Allergens

There are a number of food safety laws that are enforced in the United Kingdom, which are mostly from EU directives. These laws state that allergenic ingredients must be correctly labelled and food must be safe and of reasonable quality for human consumption. If a retailer or caterer fails to do so, and the customer who consumed the food becomes ill as a result, the customer may make a food safety claim against them and they may have to pay them personal injury compensation.

Suing A Restaurant For An Allergy

Classifying food allergies like celiac as disabilities ...

If you are looking to make a claim for compensation relating to an allergic reaction brought about by a restaurant or food retailer, we may be able to assist you. The lawyers at First Personal Injury are on-hand to discuss suing a restaurant for an allergy with you.

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Uk Restaurant Allergic Reaction Personal Injury Claims Calculator

What you wont find anywhere on this page is an online personal injury claims calculator. We believe that these kinds of tools are too inaccurate, as every claim is different. We prefer to give hard facts. The table below shows typical ranges of compensation paid for different levels of allergic reaction. It is based on data taken from the UK judicial guidelines for establishing the worth of a claim.

If you would like a much more accurate estimate of just how much you might be able to claim in compensation, please speak to one of the Legal Expert claims teams on the number below. They will be able to give you a more accurate idea of how much you could potentially claim. And it should also provide further information about how to sue a restaurant for an allergy.

What Are The Steps To Take To Sue For Food Allergy

Depending on the state and the circumstances of a case, there may be different requirements that a party will have to follow when suing for food allergy injuries. Such claims are usually based on one or some combination of the following issues:

  • A restaurant or food service was negligent in serving or preparing their food
  • A restaurant or food service failed to warn customers or consumers about potential food allergies and/or
  • A restaurant or food service intentionally tampered with the food.

In order to win a lawsuit that involves one or several of the above claims, the plaintiff will generally have to prove:

  • That they had a severe allergic reaction
  • The allergic reaction was in response to the food served or consumed
  • A restaurant or food service was negligent in their handling and serving of the food, or alternatively, failed to provide adequate warnings or intentionally tampered with the food
  • That such actions caused the plaintiff to experience a negative allergic reaction and
  • That this reaction resulted in physical injuries and damages.

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How Are Restaurants Liable For Food Allergies

If you suffer from a food allergy, it could be an allergy to wheat, nut, mustard, egg, shellfish or dairy products. Restaurants and food chains are required to inform customers of trace amounts of these products in their food. However, restaurants dont always include an ingredients list for their food, resulting in allergic reactions.

Your rights to make a claim if a restaurant fails to provide allergen information resulting in a food allergy or food poisoning comes from the Food Information for Consumers Act 2014. This act places a duty of care on food vendors and restaurants, and they are now required to provide detail regarding allergenic ingredients in all foods.

If you have a food allergy, you should always make the staff aware that you have an allergy, request information on the ingredients used to make certain foods and request information on the risk of cross contamination of ingredients during preparation of food.

You an make a claim for compensation in relation to a food allergy suffered in a restaurant in one of two scenarios:

What Makes You Eligible To Sue A Restaurant

FAAN’s Restaurant Training Video, Part II

There are two main reasons why you could be able to make an allergy compensation claim against a restaurant for the harm they have caused you, and these are:

  • The serving staff gave you the wrong information in this case, you would have clearly asked one of the serving staff whether a particular dish on the restaurant menu contained a specific allergen. For example, if you were to ask if a certain cereal contained gluten. The serving staff would have responded with a negative answer, stating the dish was gluten-free. You would then have suffered an allergic reaction to gluten, as the food actually did contain this allergen. This is the tougher of the two types of claims, as you would need to prove that the serving staff actually gave you the wrong information. Generally, this would require a witness to the event who can give testimony to support your claim. You would also need a sample of the food if possible.
  • The menu gave you the wrong information in this case, the restaurant menu would clearly state that a specific dish doesnt contain a certain allergen. To use the same example as above, it might say that a dish is gluten-free. The customer would order the dish, only to have an allergic reaction to gluten content in the dish. This is much easier to prove. You would need to keep a copy of the menu, showing where it states gluten-free and a sample of the food if possible.
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    What Foods Are Restaurants Legally Obliged To Inform Customers About

    Most compensation claims for an allergic reaction are due to a restaurant, café, or other food outlets and food distributors failing to comply with the Food Information for Consumers Act. This legislation clearly states that all food must be labelled, showing whether it contains any of the 14 primary allergens. These are:

    • Sulphur dioxide.
    • Sesame seeds.
    • Molluscs.

    If the food contains any of these allergens, it must be labelled to show it. Foods that contain chemicals and compounds extracted from one of these allergen groups must show the allergen name. It cannot only list the chemical name. For example, if a food contains oil extracted from soybeans, it must be labelled as contains soybeans.

    Are Restaurants Responsible For Your Food Allergies

    The proliferation of restaurants that say, in no uncertain terms, they wont accommodate food allergies is relatively new. Of course, so is the proliferation of diners who travel with food-sensitivity cards that explain in strongly worded language exactly what they can and cannot eat. Suddenly people arent just allergic to nuts and shellfish not even to dairy and wheat. Its garlic, mushrooms, bananas, and rice. Or combinations of things. Or two foods eaten within a certain window of time. Lately, its as if both sides kitchen staffs and customers have done much to exacerbate what should, in reality, be a relatively minor dining issue. What happened? And are restaurants actually responsible for accommodating the allergies of their guests?

    Its easy to assume that restaurants that dont accommodate allergy requests just arent willing to go through the sort of trouble of dealing with them. But really, those proclamations are helpful, because they clearly tell customers who do have food allergies that this isnt the restaurant for them. Eliminating part of the potential customer base is a risky move, but it also eliminates confusion. Id say that restaurants are obligated to inform any guest, allergic or not, exactly what is in his food but they dont have to deal with the allergy if they dont want to.

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    The Restaurant Staff Didnt Give You Information To Help Prevent An Allergic Reaction

    Many restaurants train their staff on food allergies, which covers important information as to what to do if a customer suffers an allergic reaction. Surprisingly, restaurant servers still have limited knowledge about what items are safe for allergic individuals. More exactly, the knowledge levels arent as expected. If you go out to eat and ask if a certain dish is gluten-free, the restaurant staff mightnt be able to answer or they might offer inaccurate information. To sue the restaurant for negligence, its necessary to prove that one of the staff members gave you the wrong information.

    All in all, its necessary to reach out to a legal professional who is familiar with food allergy liability. They will process the claim for you, yet its recommended to become familiar with the whys and hows of food allergy lawsuits.

    Allergen Law Exempts Most Restaurant Food

    Allergies? Restaurants May be Held Liable if You Suffer a ...

    Congress designed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 to cover packaged food items. Packaged food is the type of pre-packaged food product with an ingredient list that you purchase in a supermarket. Generally speaking, this covers almost anything you buy at a supermarket that contains more than one ingredient .

    The law does not require retail or food service companies that make food to order to give ingredient lists or allergy warnings to customers. That means any restaurant, cafe or food cart that makes food to order does not need to give you the ingredients list or tell you the food contains allergens.

    Therefore, when dining out at a restaurant, you shouldn’t expect the server or the chef to provide a list of your meal’s ingredients, or to warn you about cross-contamination since they’re not required to do so. Many will do so voluntarily, of course, but you shouldn’t count on it.

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    How To Write A Restaurant Allergy Statement And Additional Allergen Information

    There are a number of ways in which you can provide written allergen information at your restaurant. The first, and most basic, is an allergen statement, which is simply meant to alert diners of the presence of allergens in the kitchen. Typically, these statements identify some or all of the eight allergens identified by law, including wheat/gluten, milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, and soy.

    For example, if your bakery items contain wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, and milk, your allergen statement may read: Allergy statement: Menu items may contain or come into contact with WHEAT, EGGS, PEANUTS, TREE NUTS, and MILK. For more information, please speak with a manager. If you use any of the eight allergens in your kitchen, it is a good idea to include a statement on every menu to alert diners of the potential for allergic reactions.

    At MenuCalc, when we perform allergen reviews for our clients, we write disclaimers specific to their establishment and detail the operations in their kitchen. For a restaurant that uses one fryer for all products, an allergen statement might include the following warning: Please be aware that we use common fryer oil. Due to these circumstances, we are unable to guarantee that any menu item can be completely free of allergens. It is important that your allergen statement specifically states why diners may be at risk of allergic reaction so they can make an informed decision on how to proceed.

    Allergy Statistics In The Uk

    Look at the graph above you can clearly see how more people are hospitalised due to allergic reactions to food in the UK than they are for food-related illnesses.

    It is estimated that around 30% of young children have some form of allergy to one or more food types. Many have minor allergies that are not full diagnosed until much later in life. Somewhere in the region of 64% of all food allergy sufferers stop eating because of their allergy. Those who still go out to eat tend to eat in the same handful of places they know are safe.

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    Classifying Food Allergies Like Celiac As Disabilities Could Make Restaurants More Liable

    People with severe food allergies have a new tool in their attempt to find menus that fit their diet: federal disabilities law. And that could leave schools, restaurants and anyplace else that serves food more vulnerable to legal challenges over food sensitivities.

    A settlement stemming from a lack of gluten-free foods available to students at a Massachusetts university could serve as a precedent for people with other allergies or conditions, including peanut sensitivities or diabetes. Institutions and businesses subject to the Americans With Disabilities Act could be open to lawsuits if they fail to honor requests for accommodations by people with food allergies.

    Colleges and universities are especially vulnerable because they know their students and often require them to eat on campus, Eve Hill of the Justice Department’s civil rights division says. But a restaurant also could be liable if it blatantly ignored a customer’s request for certain foods and caused that person to become ill, though that case might be harder to argue if the customer had just walked in off the street, Hill says.

    “All colleges should heed this settlement and take steps to make accommodations,” says Alice Bast, president and founder of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. “To our community this is definitely a precedent.”

    “By preventing people from eating, they are really preventing them from accessing their educational program,” Hill says of the school and its students.

    The Menu Gives The Wrong Information

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    The menu in the dining establishment must clearly specify if allergens are present in the dishes, even if allergen information is provided verbally to customers. For instance, if a type of dish is dairy-free, it shouldnt contain dairy protein. The menu must strike a balance between allergen information and meal description. Given that a considerable amount of the population suffers from food allergies and knowing the potentially deadly effect of this condition, failure to warn is punished.

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    Severe Food Allergy Reaction At A Pa Restaurant

    When a customer with a food allergy dining at a restaurant in PA suffers a severe allergic reaction, the restaurant may be responsible for the customers injuries. The meal may have been carelessly prepared or served. For instance, the customer tells his server that he has a peanut allergy. Though the dish he is ordering does not list peanuts as an ingredient, the customer asks his server whether the dish has peanuts in it. The server says he doesnt believe it does, but will ask the kitchen to make sure. If there are peanuts in it, the server says he will let the customer know. The server however, forgets to ask the kitchen. Though the dish the customer orders does not have peanuts listed in the ingredients, it is cooked in peanut oil. After the customer starts eating, he starts to have an allergic reaction. His throat starts to itch and within minutes, he has difficulty breathing. The customer needs to be transported to a hospital.

    In such a case, the server was negligent because he did not confirm with the kitchen. The customer would have legal rights against the restaurant for the servers negligence. Had the server asked the kitchen, he would have known that the dish was cooked in peanut oil. The customer would have ordered another meal, or the cook would have accommodated the customer and cooked the meal with another type of oil that did not have peanuts in it.


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