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What is Cross-Contamination in Food Allergy Cases? By A PA & NJ Personal Injury Lawyer

The definition of general cross-contamination is when bacteria or other microorganisms are unintentionally transferred from one substance or object to another, with harmful effect. 

In food allergy cases, cross-contamination is when a safe food comes in contact with a food allergen such as peanuts, tree nuts, fish or anything else that someone is allergic to.

For children with severe food allergies, even the slightest trace of a food allergen can cause a severe allergic or fatal reaction.  Cross-contamination is something that parents of allergic kids should be aware of.

A typical example of cross-contamination is the following: a young boy who is allergic to peanuts goes to a restaurant with his family to have dinner.  The dish he orders from the menu does not have any peanuts in it.  His parents double check with the waiter to make sure the dish does not have any peanuts in it as well.   The menu however, does offer other dishes with peanuts in it. 

In the kitchen, prior to making the boy’s dish, the pan was used to cook a dish with peanuts in it.  The pot is rinsed off, but not thoroughly.  When the chef makes the boy’s dish with that pot, the dish now contains traces of peanuts from the last dish.

Because the boy is severely allergic to peanuts, minimal traces of peanuts can cause a potentially life threatening reaction.  The boy eats the dish and starts having a severe allergic reaction and goes into anaphylactic shock.

This is what happened to a 12 year boy who ate takeout food that was cross-contaminated with peanuts, which he was severely allergic to. Food Allergy Cross-Contamination Lawsuit -12 Year Old Boy Dies From Peanut Allergy After Eating Takeout

Cross-contamination doesn’t just happen with pots, it can also happen with knives and other cooking and kitchen utensils.  A knife used to spread cream cheese on a bagel may be cross-contaminated with traces of peanut butter because it was used in a peanut butter jar earlier. When unfortunate incidents like this happen, restaurants can be held liable for the customer’s injuries, i.e., severe allergic food reaction.  If the customer suffered a fatal reaction, family members can bring a wrongful death claim against the restaurant.

It is important for an individual with a severe food allergy or parents of children with severe food allergies to be very cautious when they dine out. 

If you have questions about a potential food allergy case, call Daniel J. O’Brien, a personal injury lawyer, to schedule a FREE consultation. 877.944.8396


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