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Jamie's Italian Pays $12,000 Fine for Serving Regular Pasta To Customer With Celiac Disease

Celiac.com 06/20/2013 - A restaurant owned by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has been fined over $12,000 after a customer with celiac disease was sickened by eating regular pasta, instead of gluten-free pasta she was supposed to receive.

Photo: Wikicommons - Really Short.The fine resolves a complaint brought by 38-year-old Kristy Richardson, who dined in 2011 at Jamie's Italian in Porstmouth, U.K. Richardson suffers from celiac disease.

According to reports in the Telegraph, Richardson asked three different staff members to make sure she received gluten-free pasta, but she somehow received regular pasta. As a result, she became "violently ill," with nausea and vomiting that lasted for days and which left her weak for months, according to news reports.

This in itself might be bad enough for most people, but, at the time, Richardson was on a waiting list for a heart and lung transplant. According to reports in the Sun, her gluten-triggered illness was so severe that her doctors temporarily removed her from that list; potentially depriving her of a transplant opportunity.

Richardson complained, authorities became involved, charges were filed, and the restaurant eventually pleaded guilty to "selling food not of the nature, substance or quality demanded by a purchaser," according to the Telegraph.

The fine is in addition to the nearly $4,000 previously awarded to Richardson in a civil case over the matter. What do you think? Should restaurants be fined if their gluten-free food contains gluten. Does it matter whether it makes people sick?

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36 Responses:

 
Kdolan
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said this on
20 Jun 2013 2:42:43 AM PST
That is unbelievable. That is a HUGE screw up. Poor Kristy. Unfortunately that is why I stay home to eat, TRUST NO ONE.

 
Debbie
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said this on
20 Jun 2013 5:26:29 AM PST
I wish that restaurants didn't try to have a gluten free option. I would rather they were ignorant. Then I could educate when I went in. As it is everyone thinks they understand. Servers half listen and then communicate to the cook/chef who also half listen. Then I get sick. They do not understand the difference between diet and disease. A server actually said to me, "this gluten craze is absurd. it is all in people's heads" I gave the guy a big tip, a piece of my mind. I didn't eat there. I went back to asking for the manager again. This is still the best way to increase your chances of safe food. Sorry to this hear this happened at such a good restaurant. I think the server should be held accountable. Food safety starts with them.

 
Sue
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said this on
20 Jun 2013 8:14:56 AM PST
This is a truly tragic case but I'm not sure you can eat out at a restaurant and completely be free of the risk of human error. I would hate to see a lot of law suits against restaurants for fear no one would serve gluten free food. However, the seriousness of celiac disease and gluten intolerance needs to be front and center in the food service industry. I think a bigger health risk for most celiacs is the small amount of gluten we are getting in processed foods due to cross contamination. I can't count the times I have reacted to a supposedly gluten free product.

 
Kalpna
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said this on
20 Jun 2013 10:01:30 AM PST
Absolutely, they should be fined. This is not a frivolous matter... she checked, she got sick, this affected her transplant potential.

 
Penny
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said this on
20 Jun 2013 10:26:18 AM PST
If a restaurant cannot guarantee their gluten-free menu items to be completely gluten-free, they shouldn't offer them! I think fining the restaurants can be a way to drive home the importance, and seriousness of the issue!

 
Tonia
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said this on
20 Jun 2013 12:12:27 PM PST
Gluten and dairy and sulfur free - I suffer analphalaxis when I eat sulfur - only takes a couple of restaurants to get it wrong (and they have) before you start to go INTO the kitchen, talk to the chef and tell him/her that I will DIE if they mess up - I am 49 years old - and have lived successfully with this for over 20 years - people are really good when they know its life or death - so make sure that they 'get how serious it is! (take my own food everywhere anyway... never travel without gluten free solutions (message me if you want some awesome pointers)

 
Sue
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said this on
25 Jun 2013 7:25:50 AM PST
Tonia, I'd love to see your pointers for travel. Do they actually let you in the kitchen? My last vacation we had a kitchen and I made my own meals. However, I did go to a conference at an upscale hotel recently and they assured me that it is standard protocol there to use separate utensils for all allergens (plus one of the chefs is gluten intolerant). I took a chance and did not get sick!

 
carissa bell
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said this on
29 Jun 2013 8:30:51 AM PST
Tonia, I think it's awesome that you go into the kitchen. My rule of thumb on the rare occasions I eat out at an unfamiliar place is if the server seems uninterested or like he doesn't fully understand celiac disease, then I get a manager. If they act the same, then I don't eat there. I'll tell you saying you'll die if you eat this always helps though.

 
mary edwards
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said this on
20 Jun 2013 10:05:26 PM PST
This is a good eye opener. How about some easy ways to tell if the pasta is gluten-free? On the menu, inform the consumer: all of our gluten-free pasta is infused with spinach to give it a distinct green tone. If you are served pasta that isn't this color, please let your server know. Something like that could help. When it all looks alike, it's difficult for everyone.

 
ceecee
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said this on
24 Jun 2013 6:29:17 PM PST
I love that idea! I hate being the "picky customer," so I feel like I am insulting the staff by asking "are you sure it's ___-free?" I worked in a restaurant long before I knew that I had any issues with food, and I've been that employee who thinks "wow, what an annoying customer."

 
Edie

said this on
24 Jun 2013 9:39:35 AM PST
The fines were minimal and would hardly make a dent in the restaurant's profits. The adverse publicity, on the other hand, could have a huge impact. I think this should be a headline story because it's actually a case of deliberate poisoning/physical abuse. TV journalists/Newspaper Editors -- are you listening?!

 
MKTN

said this on
24 Jun 2013 10:12:52 AM PST
Personally, I think this is horrible. As a person who cannot have gluten or casein, I fully understand that by eating out I am taking a ris . Always. If she was in such precarious health that being 'glutened' in a restaurant (their mistake or not) could cause her such harm, why take that risk? She isn't to blame for this mistake, of course, but it is unreasonable, imo, for all restaurants to now fear serving any gluten-free food to their clientele. Seems like a step backwards, not forwards for the gluten-free community.

 
toni
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said this on
24 Jun 2013 11:52:04 AM PST
I have to agree with Sue: there is always a risk. Even eating regular food, you never know if you'll come home with a case of food poisoning (GF related or not). I was once accidentally served regular pizza when I ordered GF pizza. It was OBVIOUS there was something wrong with my pizza - way too puffy. They let us keep it and brought me the correct one (nice and flat). Visually, GF pasta looks different too. I think both are at fault, she should have perhaps, as mentioned, talked directly to the chef and realized there IS a difference between regular pasta and GF pasta - visually. But also, the restaurant needs to educate the staff better. I would hate to also see start turning into a some sue happy situation. It only takes one before others start jumping on the band wagon for the same reason.

 
Maria
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said this on
24 Jun 2013 2:56:55 PM PST
Restaurants should not try and serve "gluten-free" food! I never eat out because the staff never takes me seriously and most of the time I end up sick! Unfortunately, the managers don't really care.

 
Eric

said this on
24 Jun 2013 8:02:55 PM PST
I also rarely eat out when I'm at home, but my career involves lots of travel, so I and everyone else in my situation really don't have a choice about eating in restaurants. I'm only in favor of fines if they willfully misrepresent the food or screw up so badly, as they did here, that their competence is in question.

 
Karla Maree
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said this on
24 Jun 2013 7:02:35 PM PST
In Kentucky, where I visit from time to time, they take food allergies very seriously. When you request a gluten-free meal, they bring out a binder of all potential food allergies by category, so if you have a gluten or dairy or nut allergy, you can see exactly what you can eat. The food is cooked in separate ovens, or using dedicated equipment, and so on, and the manager bring the food out personally. For me it is a 3-day migraine for even a touch of gluten. I empathize entirely with this poor woman's plight.

 
Cheryl
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said this on
24 Jun 2013 7:26:09 PM PST
If you are in food service, you should be trained in food allergens and food safety, there is no excuse for that huge mistake, the same thing happened to my husband. He was served wheat pasta instead of gluten-free. I think this is a positive step for all who have diseases like celiac or food allergies. EVERYONE, should feel safe eating out. I think she should have gotten more money, $12K wasn't enough for that pain and suffering.

 
Niraj
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said this on
24 Jun 2013 8:49:36 PM PST
This problem is linked to being gluten-free becoming a health fad. We therefore need to promote the concept of celiac friendly in addition to gluten-free.

 
Ailyshah
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said this on
24 Jun 2013 10:17:37 PM PST
I've had a similar experience at a restaurant where the waiter said, "this gluten/celiac thing is the latest rave" AFTER I took my food back and showed him the roll that was on top of the food. They need to get heavily fined along with major training on cross contamination!

 
nursemar
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said this on
25 Jun 2013 4:21:37 AM PST
Would the general consumer response been different if the customer was allergic to nuts, served nuts in a food product even after making the staff aware of the allergy, had an anaphylactic reaction, couldn't breathe and died?! It's a big risk for those with celiac disease when eating out and more education is needed. But if the restaurant doesn't understand it they shouldn't try to serve gluten free.

 
Suzanne
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said this on
25 Jun 2013 6:19:43 AM PST
This is a very serious issue, but I don't want to see lawsuits become a way of life over it either. Most of the general public understand a "peanut allergy" or "bee sting allergy"... Perhaps if you liken celiac to those it'll get the point across. However I still find it easier to avoid restaurants.

 
Sue

said this on
25 Jun 2013 6:53:46 AM PST
This is such an unfortunate case. I agree about the worry this will cause for other eating establishments - that they will decide it's not worth offering gluten-free options. I applaud restaurants for trying to offer a gluten-free menu. I sincerely hope the urging to "not serve" gluten-free food is not considered. People with celiac disease and other diseases need/and should be able to go out into the world, interact socially and enjoy food at a restaurant. Care/training/education should be required for all staff who serve, handle and prepare food.

 
Christine J.
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said this on
25 Jun 2013 6:54:39 AM PST
I firmly believe the restaurant should have been charged a fine for not serving specifically what the client ordered, especially when she took such pains to ensure she was delivered the correct pasta. I have learned to ask whether or not there is wheat or barley malt in foods - then if the server is savvy, they get that it needs to be gluten-free. Many people do not understand what gluten is, so I make sure to put it in terms they do understand. I also make sure that the sauces that food is served with doesn't have any hidden wheat (such as soy sauce used to make BBQ sauce or steak sauce) or just request it dry. We tend to migrate toward restaurants that have gluten-free menus and avoid the rest. It's not worth the hassle.

 
Sue
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said this on
25 Jun 2013 6:58:25 AM PST
This is very tragic. It is an awful case of the extreme. We deal with the fear of eating out too - however, we appreciate restaurants that offer a gluten-free menu and would hate to see this case set the wheels in motion for retracting gf menus. This disease is so difficult socially. What we need is more training and education for each and every person in the food service industry so they know how serious it is. People are being diagnosed more accurately than in the past, the numbers are growing - with allergies and Celiac Disease. They are not going to go away. Restaurants will have to learn to meet those growing needs. PLEASE DON'T STOP TRYING!!!!

 
Sheila
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said this on
25 Jun 2013 7:58:31 AM PST
This is what we do- when placing the order, I explain about severe gluten allergy, I look at the server's name tag, use it while saying: if my husband ends up sick and in the hospital, you Susie, will be included in the law suit. So please let the cooks know that this is a severe food allergy and not a preference." Since I started that, we have never been sick. Of course, we rarely eat out and when we do, we go to the two restaurants that are "safe."

 
Barbara

said this on
25 Jun 2013 8:20:49 AM PST
I feel she should have been awarded more, especially considering how sick she was to begin with. I just "know" that I get contaminated when eating out unless I have just a salad. I'm so tired of hearing "Oh, you have a gluten allergy?" I used to explain that's its not an allergy, but now I say "yes, so please ask the chef to be extra careful." I think they are more concerned when they hear that a customer is allergic to something. It seems to carry more weight, so to speak, because they don't know much about celiac disease. But they do know with allergies, it can be life threatening.

 
Gillian
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said this on
25 Jun 2013 9:43:27 AM PST
I have only been gluten-free for a year and I occasionally eat out, but only grilled meats/fish and veggies/salad, I take my own bread and steer clear of sauces and sweets, so far, so good. I would be very wary of ordering a typical gluten item i.e. pasta, pizza, pastries in a restaurant as staff rarely realize how important not eating gluten is, and I have said that I'm allergic to gluten to waiters on occasions to justify taking my own bread, they seem to find this white lie easier to understand. Even though I am only gluten-intolerant I get really sick if I eat any by accident.

 
Patricia

said this on
25 Jun 2013 10:40:27 AM PST
I agree you take chances, but she specifically asked for the gluten-free. These restaurants that say they serve gluten free should be responsible for their actions. Where I live in Ohio, I haven't seen any gluten-free services from any restaurants or on any menus. At these places, all staff should be on the same page. I believe if it weren't for celebrities going gluten-free, no one would ever care. I would like to mention one other thing: this country is all about money. To say a $1 many of our produce has been genetically modified especially corn and potatoes. The animals are being pumped with antibiotics, it's no wonder celiac disease and other allergies are becoming more prominent!

 
sara
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said this on
25 Jun 2013 11:00:44 AM PST
Servers do not have nutrition degrees. They don't get paid enough. Many still think "it doesn't have wheat if it is made out of 'flour'" I can't blame them. I appreciate those who educate themselves, but I don't expect them to. Because it has kind of become a fad it is also hard for servers/cooks to take it completely seriously. The fact is that when you eat out, if it isn't a completely gluten-free restaurant, you are taking a risk. If you can't take the risk, then don't eat there.

 
Phil
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said this on
25 Jun 2013 12:19:29 PM PST
There is always a risk eating out, even with accidental cross contamination, so if I were in her shoes I wouldn't be eating in restaurants that weren't gluten-free only. Even so, the restaurant deserved the fine.

 
Kelly
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said this on
25 Jun 2013 12:43:07 PM PST
Yes, I think the restaurant should receive a small fine, but the fact that this made news is ridiculous. It's the old lady at McDonald's spilling hot coffee on herself all over again!!

 
Julie
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said this on
25 Jun 2013 12:46:20 PM PST
This situation really angers me as being gluten-free myself and intolerant to dairy, I have four children who suffer either from intolerances or severe food allergies. People need to be educated, staff and chefs as well. When traveling, we bring all of our food. We trust no one as we had one big scare with a pizza that was brushed with peanut oil once that my twin boys were about to eat! We had voiced our concerns to our waitress/chef. I stayed at home to raise my children to educate and protect them. I feel that the public should do the same, stop being so ignorant, start being compassionate and respectful towards the rest of us!!

 
sandra
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said this on
25 Jun 2013 5:20:49 PM PST
We go to a pizza restaurant where you watch them assemble your pizza in what is similar to a cafeteria line. When you ask for gluten-free, they ask first if it is allergy or preference. For allergy, they change their plastic glove first. There is a separate tomato sauce bin and they offer daiya vegan cheese. I used to make good pizza at home but it is so nice to be able to eat out.

 
Sarah C
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said this on
26 Jun 2013 12:06:32 PM PST
We need to get the balance right between encouraging restaurants to cater for 'difficult' cases, as part of the goal of being an inclusive, equitable society, and highlighting the seriousness of the consequence for getting it wrong. I think the answer should be education rather than sanctions.

 
Julie
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said this on
27 Jun 2013 8:32:51 AM PST
I specifically say to servers that I have celiac disease. I think using those words instead of saying "gluten intolerant" or "can't have gluten" increases the seriousness of it. Every time we educate people in the restaurant industry it will help someone else in the future.

 
Elaine
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said this on
30 Jun 2013 12:56:15 PM PST
Being that the chef did this purposefully the fine is just a slap on the wrist, on a transplant list or not, that behavior affects people’s lives. It would have cost me at least 3 months of my life. I am so sorry so many of you have had such bad experiences in restaurants. I use to but decided that celiac was not going to define who I was and keep me from living my life. I do not except wait staff to know what celiac is, too much turnover in that field. I have found if I KINDLY ask the wait staff to allow me to speak to the manager or the chef as I have some special diet requirements I get excellent results. When I tell them I am Gluten Free for MEDICAL reasons I then have their undivided attention. Even if the restaurant has a GF menu I make it a point not to order anything as risky as pasta. I am just as happy eating a healthy salad with lemon as I love to cook and get lots of tasty GF meals at home as well as at GF restaurants.
I have also started taking some literature with me on how badly gluten will affect someone with celiac disease, this helps spread the word on how serious it is.




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