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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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    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.

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    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.

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    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!

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    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.

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    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.

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    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!!

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    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!!

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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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 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.

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    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 gluten-free 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 gluten-free meals at home as well as at gluten-free 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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  • 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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