Sunday, May 29, 2016

Restauranteur Convicted of Manslaughter in Peanut Allergy Death

As a person with peanut allergy, I am reluctant to eat at restaurants that have any peanut items on the menu.  A kitchen with peanuts is a kitchen that could cross contaminate my food.  My general rule is that I don't eat at any Thai, most Vietnamese, some Indian, and Chinese restaurants.  

Before I go out to eat, I call the restaurant and ask my questions.  I look up the menu online and I scan it for signs of peanut.  Eating at a restaurant is a pain for me and something I don't entirely feel safe doing.  I am as careful as possible.  

When I was around 12, my mom took me out to eat at the Bamboo Garden, a vegan Chinese restaurant.  The waiter assured us that the restaurant would be careful and not use the same cookware to cook my food.  He said that my dinner would have no peanuts.  He lied.  20 minutes later, I was in the Group Health Emergency Room fighting for my life.  My mom complained to the manager,  and I have never eaten there since.  This experience left me with a deep distrust of vegan and Chinese food.  The waiter who lied, and the sloppy kitchen staff who used very cross-contaminated dishes were never punished for hurting me, and causing my violent reaction.  

To my knowledge, historically, restaurants have been dodging responsibility for the suffering, pain, and sometimes death they inflict on people with food allergies.   People with food allergies are usually blamed for their carelessness in eating questionable food.  

Education about food allergies and the dangers of cross contamination should be required Public Health knowledge to obtain a Food Handler's Permit.  Currently it is not, and that needs to change.  And with this landmark court decision, hopefully it will.  

I have been following this trial for a few weeks.  The jury reached a decision, and they convicted the owner of an Indian restaurant  for the death of Paul Wilson, a customer who was allergic to peanuts.  The server wrote 'no nuts' on Mr. Wilson's take out meal.  

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/24/world/europe/british-restaurateur-sentenced-to-6-years-after-peanut-allergy-death.html

I am not usually concerned with the proceedings of trials, court hearings, mostly because legal transactions bore me.  However, I followed the news stories about this case with enthusiastic interest.  I had a burning desire to see if the legal system would serve justice.  Would the court find the restaurant responsible?  Would this decision make restaurant food safer for people with severe food allergies like me?  Would restaurants think twice about lying to their customers in the future, if a guilty verdict was reached?  

I was overjoyed when the jury convicted the restaurant owner.  Justice at last!  I hope that this decision makes restaurant food safer for people with deadly food allergies.  

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