When warned, restaurants have a responsibility to protect patrons with severe allergies to food items and ingredients. Allergies can range from mild to severe to deadly. If you or your dependents suffer an allergic reaction caused by a food item you’re served, the restaurant could be held liable for your medical costs and other losses, say personal injury attorneys with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell. A food allergy develops when a person’s immune system responds abnormally to a type of protein found in a particular food. For reasons we have yet to fully understand, a person’s immune system may treat these particular proteins as harmful pathogens, triggering an overreaction that produces Immunoglobulin E (Ig E) antibodies. When these antibodies travel to mast cells, histamine and other chemicals are released, forcing an allergic reaction. Symptoms can appear in as little as two minutes and include tingling or itching in the mouth; an itching, eczema or hives breakout; swelling of the lips, face, tongue, throat or other body part; wheezing and difficulty breathing; abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting; dizziness or fainting. In the case of a severe allergy, anaphylaxis shock can develop with life-threatening symptoms including constriction and tightening of airways; throat swelling that makes it difficult to breathe; rapid pulse; a sudden and significant drop in blood pressure; or loss of consciousness. Without immediate emergency medical treatment, a victim could lapse into a coma or die within minutes. Every restaurateur is no doubt aware of the eight most common food allergens:
- Soybeans and soy products
- Tree nuts (i.e., almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, etc.)
- Fish (i.e., salmon, tuna, halibut, flounder, etc.)
- Shellfish (i.e., shrimp, crab, lobster, oysters, etc.)
But other allergens exist, too. These can include mustard, garlic, corn, tomatoes, onions, citrus fruits, berries, and seeds (i.e., sunflower, sesame and poppy seeds). If you or your loved ones have allergies, it’s imperative that you let your restaurant server know. Many people with allergies bring printed cards that clearly state their allergies and all the potential symptoms they may experience if served a menu item that contains the allergen. Should a lawsuit be filed, this can help to establish that your server and other restaurant staff knew or should have known about your allergy. It’s also important that you be honest. Many confuse food intolerances with food allergies. For instance, lactose intolerance is a very different condition from a milk allergy. While a lactose intolerant person typically can handle a touch of butter in a sauce, someone with a severe milk allergy may suffer far more serious or even deadly consequences. Food intolerance symptoms generally are not considered serious enough for legal action. If you or your dependents suffer an allergic reaction when eating at a restaurant despite alerting wait staff and management of your allergies, get medical attention right away. Then, contact an experienced personal injury attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell.