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The Legal Side of Food Allergies Incidents

Posted on August 13th, 2013 by Staff

Severe Peanut Allergy Kills a 13-year-old Girl in Summer Camp

While at a summer camp, 13-year-old Natalie Giorgi tasted a Rice Crispies treat and spit it out right away after detecting the taste of peanuts.

She immediately told her parents, who administered some Benadryl to offset the allergic reaction and three epinephrine injections. But her throat swelled shut, and she died. A Giorgi family friend declared: "If you could have been at the campsite and seen the resources that were there - helicopters, paramedics, nurses, doctors - all working on her."

Recent statistics revealed by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that food allergies affect up to 15 million people in U.S. (3 million are children) and the numbers are on the rise.

Food Allergies - Causes and Symptoms

Food allergies (not to be mistaken with “food intolerance” which is only a discomfort and not a life-threatening situation) are a hypersensitivity affecting the immune system each time you eat a specific food. Food allergies may involve severe reactions, in particular for children and may even cause death. The most common food allergies are to:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Shellfish
  • Milk

Peanuts are the top cause of severe food allergies for children. According to a report from The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of U.S. children with food allergies increased by 50 % between 1997 and 2011.

In particular, a study published in 2010 reveals that peanut allergies among children appear to have risen by 300% between 1997 and 2008.

You may have a food allergy if you’re experiencing one of the following symptoms within 48 hours after eating something:

  • Hives
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarse voice
  • Nausea /vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fainting
  • Itching
  • Swollen lips

When a severe allergic reaction appears, one usually experiences what is called “anaphylaxis,” and an epinephrine auto‑injection is required, followed by prompt medical help.

How can the Lawyers from the O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm Help You in a Food Allergies Legal Claim?

The recent media coverage of tragic deaths caused by serious allergic reactions to food raises a key question: who can be held liable for food allergies incidents? From growers, distributors, restaurant staff and customers, someone may be held liable for fatal situations.

State laws ensure that restaurants and similar places serving food should be aware of allergic food items when preparing meals. These regulations differ from one state to another.

The liability in these cases is based on disclosure. The restaurant is not liable if you order a dish containing an ingredient you’re allergic to. However, you do have a right to ask for a substitution, but the restaurant has no obligation to comply.

Food allergies cases may be difficult to handle as the individual must:

  • Present evidence that the food consumed contained an allergy-causing substance that wasn’t indicated or labeled
  • Prove that the contaminated food caused the allergic reaction, and, in some cases, death

If you or a loved one suffered a from a severe food allergic reaction, you might be entitled to file a claim against negligent parties and receive compensation for your loss and pain. You may be thousands of miles away from home, and dealing with medical, insurance and legal issues makes it exponentially harder to focus on recovering.

If you suspect you’ve been a victim of someone’s negligence, don’t hesitate to contact one of the highly-respected attorneys at the O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm to discuss the specific details and the strengths of your case in Sacramento or Elk Grove areas.

How to Prevent Food Allergies

You can prevent food allergies by taking care of some safety aspects such as:

  • When traveling by plane, hand-carry your medications and avoid putting medications for your allergies in checked luggage
  • Keep your allergist’s phone number contact details on-hand
  • People with food allergies must pay extra caution when visiting places like Japan, Africa India, China, or Foreign beach resorts.
  • If you’re traveling to a foreign country, do some research of the main ingredients they use in their dishes and consider visual/digital alternatives of displaying pictures of the food you’re allergic to (for example the so-called “dining cards”)
  • It’s also recommended to learn the word for your allergy in the language of the country you’re visiting.


  • http://www.nbcnews.com