Restaurant Customer is Killed by Allergic Reaction to Food


Restaurant Safety Expert WitnessThis case involves an individual who suffered a severe allergic reaction at a fast casual restaurant in Connecticut. The plaintiff had a known, severe allergy to shellfish, which he indicated to restaurant staff. As a result, restaurant staff advised him to order a meal of chicken and french fries. Unbeknownst to the customer, the meal had been contaminated with the presence of a fried shrimp along with the chicken, which caused a violent and immediate reaction in the customer. The man’s family immediately called emergency services, however they were too late to save his life. It was alleged that a lack of training and supervision of the kitchen staff was responsible for the contamination of the man’s meal.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please briefly describe your experience with creating and adhering to safety protocol in a restaurant setting.
  • 2. Should there be explicit training and/or warnings in place to educate the staff on how to avoid issues such as this?

Expert Witness Response E-008457

My educational background in Food Science, including Food Microbiology, and experience in designing, managing, and continually improving the food safety systems for some of the largest chain restaurants in the world gives me a great perspective for this case. However, ultimately it is about how each unit trains every employee and reinforces the right food safety practices for their operations. There’s no question that there should be training programs in place and warnings available for employees for all potential incidences that could occur, and food needs to be continually checked to ensure that there is no crossover between different types of meals, especially in a fast food environment. These are things that restaurants and fast food chains should have spelled out in black and white. There are many tools and programs available in the restaurant industry, including the National Restaurant Association, that outline all aspects of customer safety and best practices, including programs for managers to take advantage of.

Expert Witness Response E-007804

Expert-ID: E-007804

As a manager in the hospitality industry for over 30 years I have established SOP’s to establish “safety” in restaurant settings. All new managers and all new employees should go through safety training as they get training in their work area. An understanding of allergens is required for food safety. Both front-of-house and and back-of-house staff need to be trained how to make sure the guest stays safe. Cross contamination must be prevented and a system be in place for those that notify you that they have an allergy. I am a certified serve safe instructor and proctor, have been for over 20 years. The NRA (National Restaurant Association) serve safe program has been the primary certifying body for food safety in commercial establishments both nationally and internationally. The program training includes allergen awareness and proper protocols to deal with allergens. I personally have experienced multiple allergic reactions, requiring adrenaline shots in the hospital emergency room. Proper training is the key to preventing such issues.

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