Food Contamination Leads To Death
A birthday dinner should be a time of fun and relaxation, not a catalyst for tragedy. Unfortunately for a young man just turning 18, his birthday meal ended up being his last, and now that the truth has come out, his parents are demanding change.
Restaurants have to deal with a wide array of challenges and responsibilities, from ordering inventory, staffing servers and bartenders, and scheduling cooks to handling customer complaints, advertising, and business overhead. Restaurant management is a tough career, with long hours and often low pay even for high-ranking professionals. Yet, in the hustle and bustle of the work that needs to be done, restaurants cannot ignore their number one responsibility: customer safety. It doesn’t matter how great the food tastes or how perfect the ambiance is if the food ends up hurting someone…or worse.
Basic food safety requirements for any restaurant tend to focus on the avoidance of pathogens and bacteria. Requiring employees to wash their hands regularly and separate raw and prepared food is one critical way to avoid contamination. Another involves ensuring that safe food remains safe, by keeping it at a temperature that will prevent the growth of potentially dangerous bacteria.
However, a more serious concern can still be present even if everything in the restaurant is spotless. Allergies may only be a seasonal annoyance for most of us, but for certain people, they are a matter of life and death. Failure to accurately identify possible allergens in a particular dish is extremely serious when a person has a strong allergy that could lead to anaphylactic shock.
Tragically, this was the case for 18-year-old Owen Carey, who was celebrating his 18th birthday at a local restaurant. He ordered a chicken burger and took pains to ask the server to verify that it had no dairy at all in it, due to his serious dairy allergy. He ate half the chicken breast before beginning to experience symptoms, but by that time it was too late; he was dead in under an hour.
The chicken breast had been soaked in buttermilk before being cooked, a common way to tenderize chicken and add flavor. However, it also infused the meat with milk proteins that caused Owen to go into anaphylactic shock. The coroner finally released its inquest results only days ago:
“The deceased made serving staff aware of his allergies. The menu was reassuring in that it made no reference to any marinade or a potential allergenic ingredient in the food selected. The deceased was not informed that there were allergens in the order. The food served to and consumed by the deceased contained dairy which caused the deceased to suffer a severe anaphylactic reaction from which he died.”
The family is now petitioning the local government to require restaurants to list allergens on all menu items, a practice which many restaurants already do but which is not presently required by law. However, it raises a bigger question: who is responsible when food poisoning or undisclosed allergens cause serious illness or even death? What does an injured person have to prove in order to recover? An expert food contamination attorney can ask the right questions after such an incident to determine who should be held responsible. Cohen & Cohen, P.C.