Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Scary Reminder that Restaurant Allergen Negligence Can be Fatal

I sat up half the night with an Epi-pen watching my wife to see if she was still breathing. The restaurant we ate at that night contaminated my wife’s meal with tree nuts. Although we had told the server that my wife was allergic to nuts -- and the server assured us there would be no nuts -- someone or some system failed at the restaurant.

The restaurant, Gulfstream, an upscale eatery in Orange Country, California, looked beautiful. Everyone at the restaurant presented a polite fa├žade, but ultimately seemed unconcerned about their negligence, which could have killed one of their patrons. The restaurant management has not answered or returned my phone calls.

The Orange Country HCA Environmental Health agency was perhaps worse. The agency would not take my complaint on food contaminated with hidden allergens. The HCA person acknowledged the agency inspected the restaurant, but she thought allergens were solely the consumers’ responsibility. Moreover, the health agency employee seemed unaware that allergic reactions could be serious or even fatal. She dismissed my complaint as not their concern.

Someone ought to instruct Orange County government about the contents of the FDA Food Code, which is adopted by the state of California. We clearly have a ways to go on educating food service managers and health inspectors about food safety.

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