UnderCover Waitress: Listing Peanuts As An Ingredient

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Listing Peanuts As An Ingredient

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Avvo is a website on which people may post questions and receive public answers from lawyers. Here is a recent post from a woman whose little girl has a peanut allergy. They were, of course, dining in a restaurant.

I ordered my daughter (2 yr) a kids meal ( multi gran pancake) and she took a bite and bit into a pecan. She is allergic to peanuts. Her eye swelled shut and she complained that her face itched. I spoke to the server and the manager and they just said sorry and i did not have to pay for it. I then gave my daughter her epi pen shot and swelling started to decrease. Is there a law in place that requires restaurant to list ingredients? was there something more they should have done?

A lawyer from New Jersey simply told her to contact a local lawyer. D'uh. Why bother taking up space with an answer if you are not going to say anything interesting?

This incident happened in California. Two other, much more interesting answers have been offered, one from Florida and one from California. The California lawyer included in his response, "...while there is no law in place..."

Both of these guys got very excited about how dangerous peanut allergies could be, and how of course the restaurant should have done so much more, how negligent can you possibly be? I won't downplay the potential severity of allergies; I remember Chen Efrat's tragic story.

But I notice some things in the Avvo post that our esteemed esquire friends fail to mention. For example, the mother doesn't mention alerting the waitress to her daughter's allergy. I don't know about this particular establishment, but our menus state that we cannot be held to list every single ingredient in our made-to-order dishes, and to please tell your waitress about any food allergies. Plain as day.

We have a gluten-free menu. We ask you to please tell us your allergies. We will attempt to accommodate any food requirements you may have. We can't do a darn thing if you keep your allergies a secret.

Reminds me of my blue meanie friend who is allergic to rasberries.


  1. Your disclaimer is all well and good, but pecans were a major ingredient in those pancakes. They should have been listed on the menu, in the description of the pancakes.

    Pancakes are basically flour, eggs and milk. You wouldn't serve "Whole grain pancakes" with blueberries without listing them as "Whole grain blueberry pancakes" - the pecans were a MAIN ingredient in that dish.

    It is a well know fact that patrons don't read disclaimers or soda lists or salad dressings or the 18% gratuity for parties over 6 [basically fine print] - why should they have to tell their server that they have an allergy to a certain item when the meal they picked [knowing their specific allergy] didn't list the main ingredient? I stress MAIN. Again.

    The restaurant was at fault here and no amount of "we aren't responsible", if they even had that on their menu, negates their responsibility.

    Have fun. I know you don't like anyone to disagree with you. I sometimes wonder why some of my favorite waiter blogs have you on their blog role.

  2. To answer your question in the third paragraph, because if you (or your child) has an allergy, you have a duty to reasonably protect yourself by telling the waitress (or waiter.) When people alert the server and are served their allergens anyway, I side with the patrons.

  3. Agreed. Buffy, people with LIFE-THREATENING allergies need to tell us about them because even if your dish doesn't have the allergen in it, it might be prepared or cooked on the same surface as something that DOES have it in the ingredients. Even trace amounts can affect some people. That's why it's important.

  4. For those of us not personally familiar with peanut allergies: Do all, or most, people with "peanut" allergies react to "pecans"?

  5. Peanuts are a legume, not a nut. Personally, I don't understand the overlap, if there is one, or whether some people have multiple allergies. It is an excellent question, and I hope more readers respond with relevant information. Thanks for asking this.

  6. If I remember correctly, peanuts and tree nuts (walnuts, peanuts, etc.) are different allergies. I had a friend who would die if he had a pecan whose favorite candy was Reese's Pieces.

  7. Phale, a belated thank you to you for answering the question.


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