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  • Jefferson Adams

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

    Jefferson Adams
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    Caption: Photo: Wikicommons - Really Short.

    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.



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    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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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

    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.

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    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!

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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 gluten-free 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!!!!

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    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)

    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!

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    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."

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.


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