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Posted by: OFT Food Safety & Injury Lawyers

Food allergies have become more and more common throughout the country. Some cases can be mild, but when a restaurant’s food triggers a severe reaction, there may be a case for legal compensation.

Securing a settlement from a restaurant could be difficult. Learn more about food allergies and why you should call a food poisoning lawyer.

Understanding Food Allergies & Restaurants

According to the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention (CDC), nearly a third of US adults and a quarter of US children have some form of allergy, whether that’s a seasonal allergy, eczema, or a food allergy.

Food allergies happen when the immune system reacts to certain proteins it mistakes for harmful invaders. They can develop at any age and reactions can vary between those afflicted.

What are Some Common Types of Food Allergies?

Here’s a list of the most common food allergies:

  1. Peanuts: Often causes severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reactions and is usually lifelong.
  2. Tree Nuts: Includes allergies to almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, and Brazil nuts.
  3. Shellfish: Covers allergies to crustaceans and mollusks such as shrimp, crab, lobster, squid, and clams.
  4. Fish: Allergies to various fish like salmon, tuna, and halibut can lead to significant allergic reactions.
  5. Milk: Common among children, though many outgrow it; distinct from lactose intolerance.
  6. Eggs: Also common in children with many outgrowing the allergy.
  7. Wheat: An allergic reaction to wheat proteins, which is different from gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
  8. Soy: Typically appears in infants and children, with many outgrowing the allergy over time.
  9. Sesame: Known for its potential to cause severe allergic reactions.

Symptoms of Food Allergies

Approximately 32 million people in the US are affected by food allergies. The prominence of food allergies means restaurants and other establishments serving food need to maintain clean and safe environments.

Food allergies can range in severity. Ingestion isn’t always necessary to cause a reaction, and some reactions can happen within minutes. Others could take an hour to develop.

Mild Reactions

  • Itching in the mouth, throat, or ears
  • Hives or raised, itchy red rash
  • Stomach pain and nausea (may improve on their own or with medication)

Moderate Reactions

  • Swelling of the lips, face, or eyes
  • Respiratory issues (may require medical attention)

Severe Reactions

  • Anaphylaxis
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Loss of consciousness

Food Allergies in the Food Service Industry

Understanding allergens and their potential reactions is crucial for food service professionals and patrons alike to ensure safety and prevent severe health outcomes.

There is legislation that regulates how restaurants and other food industry professionals deal with potential allergens.

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA)

FALCPA requires food labels identify the presence of major allergens in different products. This act mostly applies to packaged food.

However, the principles of clear labeling and communication extend to restaurant settings as well.

Local Health Codes

Health regulations can vary by department, locality, and department, but most provide similar guidelines. They set standards for food safety training, proper labeling of ingredients on the menu, and protocols for handling allergy-related requests.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

Food allergies have been a protected disability since 2008. The ADA protects US citizens from discrimination in several areas.

It tells restaurants that they must accommodate severe food allergies. However, guests cannot place undue hardship on the business.

Legal Liability in Allergic Reaction Cases

Food safety cases are complex. Like in food poisoning cases, you can recover damages from restaurants, but you have to find who can be held liable.

There can be several liable parties in a food allergy case, including:

  • Restaurant owners and staff
  • Hospital staff
  • Kitchen staff at public institutes
  • Staff on airlines or cruise ships
  • Other food service companies

How Are Restaurants Held Accountable in Food Allergy Cases?

In most cases, businesses serving or preparing food has a duty of care to protect its customers. They cannot create more risk.

Negligence in Food Allergy Cases

However, a restaurant could be considered negligent if they do not take reasonable care to avoid allergens when they prepare food for customers with allergies.

If the staff isn’t trained to deal with allergies or if they don’t follow allergy guidelines, a business would be negligent if a customer suffered an injury.

Strict Liability in Food Allergy Cases

A restaurant might be considered “strictly liable” if a customer eats an allergen that isn’t disclosed on the menu or by the staff.

How Do I Pursue a Food Allergy Reaction Claim?

If you’ve been injured by a food allergy incident, your could be facing financial loss, physical discomfort, and emotional distress. By working with a food illness personal injury lawyer, you can work on securing a settlement for your damages.

These general steps can guide your personal injury claim.

Seek Medical Attention

If you suffer a food illness or serious reaction after eating at a restaurant, seek medical attention. Even if you feel you can handle the allergen, you need to ensure you’re safe and that your illness is documented.

Gather Documentation about the Incident

You need evidence to prove a personal injury claim. You should work quickly to protect evidence that proves your allergic reaction happened at a restaurant, and that your reaction caused you pain, discomfort, and financial loss.

Evidence can include menus, anything related to specials, witness statements, your medical records, and bills related to the incident.

Contact a Food Illness Lawyer

A personal injury lawyer with experience dealing with food illnesses can give your claim the best chance at a settlement to compensate you for all your losses.

Your attorney can focus on the details of your case, protecting your claim and ensuring that your settlement isn’t at risk. Their knowledge and experience can help you hold a negligent company at risk.

Contact OFT Food Safety & Injury Lawyers for Experienced Guidance

Living with a food allergy can be a complicated life. If a restaurant neglects to take your safety into account, you deserve to hold them accountable. Work with the food safety lawyers at OFT Food Safety & Injury Lawyers.

We know that some restaurants don’t follow safety standards that should protect patrons. We’ll investigate your claim, identify liable parties, and work with you to get the justice you deserve.

Call 888-828-7087 or reach us online to schedule your free consultation.

Notable Recoveries

$10 million

Seven infants were sickened after consuming a contaminated food product marketed to infants

$6.5 million

Verdict on behalf of a little boy who contracted a severe Salmonella infection from chicken

$7.55 million

Verdict on behalf of a little girl who contracted E. coli at a petting zoo

$2.25 million

E. coli infections contracted from a major fast food chain

$45 million

An over-the-counter medication caused severe kidney damage to multiple users

$3.4 million

A pregnant woman contracted a Listeria infection from contaminated fruit and passed the infection to her child

$3 million

Multistate Cyclospora outbreaks


A couple contracted Salmonella from a restaurant


A pedestrian was struck by a left-turning car, fracturing her tibia


A semi-truck rear-ended a motorcyclist causing a collapsed lung, rib fractures and road rash