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    Gluten in Soup at Grand Canyon's El Tovar Hotel Injured L.A. Man, Lawsuit Claims

      A lawsuit accuses Grand Canyon's El Tovar Lodge of "permanent injury" over gluten in French onion soup.

    Caption: El Tovar Hotel in Moonlight. Image: CC--Grand Canyon Nat. Park

    Celiac.com 04/23/2019 - A bowl of French Onion soup at Grand Canyon's El Tovar Lodge contained hidden gluten that left a Los Angeles artist with a "permanent" injury, claims a recently filed lawsuit.

    As a result of an adverse reaction to the soup, Todd Serlin is suing Grand Canyon's concessionaire, Xanterra, for more than $100,000, according to the suit, now in federal court.

    The federal complaint states that Serlin and his partner, Mark Bauer, had booked a room at the historic El Tovar on December 27, 2016, and dined in the hotel's restaurant overlooking the South Rim of Grand Canyon.

    Serlin has celiac disease, and is "extremely careful" not to eat anything with gluten. The autoimmune condition causes problems in the small intestine when gluten, a molecule in wheat products, is consumed. 

    Serlin claims he "asked the waitress to confirm with the chef that there was no gluten in the base of the soup," and Serlin the chef confirmed the soup was gluten-free, the suit says.

    After eating the soup, Serlin then ordered a duck entree with rice and vegetables.

    According to the suit, Serlin became ill an hour or two later: "His symptoms intensified into waves of nausea, radiating abdominal pain, a migraine headache, vomiting, and then diarrhea. It was later determined that the restaurant served Todd food that contained gluten."

    The suit claims that Serlin "suffered severe and permanent personal injuries" from the experience, and "will continue to suffer, for an indefinite time, great pain, suffering, significant discomfort, and a loss of quality of life."

    Serlin is represented by the Scottsdale law firm Hymson Goldstein Pantiliat & Lohr, PLLC. The original suit was filed in Coconino County Superior Court in early March, but the case was moved to federal court.

    What do you think? Legitimate complaint, gross over-reaction, or right on the money? Share your thoughts below.

    Read more at: phoenixnewtimes.com


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    I believe I read about this case previously. My guess (and that's all it is), is that he verified that the soup base was gluten-free, but that, instead of prepping him a new bowl, they simply took the crouton off an existing bowl. If that crouton sat on the soup for any length of time at all, the soup would have been contaminated with crumbs. That being said, I think he's over-reacting. Short of a totally gluten-free restaurant, you take a risk every time you eat out, no matter how much you confirm things with the wait staff and the kitchen. You need to think about what you're ordering, and what the likelihood is that it may be contaminated. I, personally, would never order French Onion Soup, or anything else traditionally prepared with a large slice of bread in liquid, anywhere other than a totally gluten-free place. Having said that, "severe and permanenent personal injuries?" Really? I doubt it. Unless he has refractory celiac or is newly diagnosed, in which case eating out anywhere would likely be considered a very bad idea, his celiac should be manageable. Uncomfortable until his gut calms down and other symptoms abate? Yes. Perhaps embarrassed and annoyed at having this reaction at the hotel? Certainly. Angry at the restaurant staff? Undoubtedly. But assuming his celiac was already well controlled through diet, one incident won't redamage his gut to the extent it no doubt was prior to diagnosis. He should drop the suit, get back on his diet and let his gut calm down, and get on with life.

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    In Europe we can find restaurants that have been certified Gluten Free by the Health Department.  I noticed that a lot of Physicians in the United States refuse to become knowledgeable or they down play the severity of the disease, because they don't believe it themselves. Without the support of the medical community how can the public be sensitive to people with Celiac? Most restaurant workers have not been trained adequately and, to be fair, they are not medical and do not understand the concept of contamination.  I struggled with my R.N. colleagues and I was given gluten product when admitted to the hospital. They are the one that should know better! My daughter, working in the kitchen, warns me about the  constant cross contamination she notices. So, yes, this particular law suit may be an over exaggeration but may be not. I become very sick for months after gross contamination so what long effect am I going to have? Unfortunately we can just assume.  Unfortunately, it appears that to be taken seriously we need a law suit although i don't think it will resolve the issues. 

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    This is a tough one.  Recently a waiter checked with the kitchen, assured me that the fixed-menu tomato soup was gluten-free.  It wasn't.   Within an hour I had a full-blown hit.  The problem is, if the restaurants are at huge financial risk, there is no benefit to them in being generally careful, and we will lose the gluten-free options we now have.  

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    Guest the gluten-free guy

    Posted

    I've been a celiac for 25 years and you have to assume most of the responsibility yourself.  Permanent damage? I don't think so.  Besides asking, if he is that sensitive: get a detector.

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    4 hours ago, Guest laura said:

    In Europe we can find restaurants that have been certified Gluten Free by the Health Department.  I noticed that a lot of Physicians in the United States refuse to become knowledgeable or they down play the severity of the disease, because they don't believe it themselves. Without the support of the medical community how can the public be sensitive to people with Celiac? Most restaurant workers have not been trained adequately and, to be fair, they are not medical and do not understand the concept of contamination.  I struggled with my R.N. colleagues and I was given gluten product when admitted to the hospital. They are the one that should know better! My daughter, working in the kitchen, warns me about the  constant cross contamination she notices. So, yes, this particular law suit may be an over exaggeration but may be not. I become very sick for months after gross contamination so what long effect am I going to have? Unfortunately we can just assume.  Unfortunately, it appears that to be taken seriously we need a law suit although i don't think it will resolve the issues. 

    These days I believe restaurant workers, at least in higher-end restaurants, are sufficiently well trained. They handle other types of special diets, whether those of necessity or choice. The problem with restaurants and the gluten-free diet is, rather, the fad nature that it has acquired. Too many people sit down, go through a huge to-do about needing something to be made gluten-free (rather than asking what on the menu is, or can readily be made, gluten-free, they select something that requires significant modification and insist that they must have it their way), and having gotten their oh-so-necessary gluten-free main dish, proceed to eat their way through the bread bowl, or order some fancy cake for dessert. Those people, who are only eating gluten-free because it makes them feel special, or because it's "clean" or some-such thing, create problems for everyone who eats gluten-free out of medical necessity. Restaurant workers get tired of catering to someone's whims because it's been presented as a medical problem, only to see that clearly it wasn't. I don't blame them for getting tired of it. I blame the idiots who treat eating gluten-free as anything other than a medical necessity.

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    2 hours ago, Guest the gluten-free guy said:

    I've been a celiac for 25 years and you have to assume most of the responsibility yourself.  Permanent damage? I don't think so.  Besides asking, if he is that sensitive: get a detector.

    Exactly. I'm 65. Diagnosed when I was around 2. Been eating gluten-free a long time. I choose what risks I take, and generally do just fine. If I have problems with a meal, I know who to blame. There is no permanent damage from a single exposure in someone who is otherwise healed and sticking to the diet.

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    IT CAN cause permeant damage in some, it is a AI disease and reacts differently in everyone. It can attack other organs, the brain, and the nervous system. I have gluten ataxia, I have suffered brain and nerve damage, from nerves to organs taking damage and becoming less efficiently to losing stuff I learned in school, trades, and for a while, I even could not feel hot or cold in my hands for years. Heck, I have to take pancreas enzymes to eat food, and not eat carbs anymore and I can link these to exposures.
    There have been cases of it causing the immune system to attack a girl's kidneys, and attack a little boys liver. The immune system reacts to gluten and attacks, the skin and intestines are just the more common targets. 

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    It’s an inherent risk - don’t think this will stand up in court. They didn’t intentionally gluten him and the contamination could have happened anywhere along the way (utensils, bowl, etc). Think this would be hard to prove Restaurant is negligent. I wish we lived in a world that we could safely eat out in restaurants. We rarely go out to eat anymore and only to a handful of places we trust. I always bring my Nima sensor. 

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    Guest Gluten Free Parent

    Posted

    I agree...the risk was his to take.  Also, when people are litigious in situations like this, it creates a problem for all.  Restaurants are generally kind to accommodate and they could just decide not to create the risk and suggest he eat elsewhere.  I do want chefs to take precautions, but I do also want choices and assume the risk is ours to take.  I don't want to be told I can't be served...which is where things could end up when you ask to be accommodated.  

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    Guest Olesia Hlyzova

    Posted

    21 hours ago, Ennis_TX said:

    The Celiac disease can cause permeant damage in some individuals more than in others.  it is a AI disease and reacts differently in everyone. It can attack organs, the brain, and the nervous system. I have gluten ataxia, I have suffered brain and nerve damage, from nerves to organs taking damage and becoming less efficiently to losing stuff I learned in school, trades, and for a while, I even could not feel hot or cold in my hands for years. Heck, I have to take pancreas enzymes to eat food, and not eat carbs anymore and I can link these to exposures.
    There have been cases of it causing the immune system to attack a girl's kidneys, and attack a little boys liver. The immune system reacts to gluten and attacks, the skin and intestines are just the more common targets. 

         If peanuts recognized as allergen because of almost immediate effect and can be deadly to some, why gluten swiped as not serious?  My daughter's intestines  bleed and nutrients not absorbed properly for months  after exposure to gluten, it takes physical and mental toll. She lost time in school and in college. Celiac effects physical well being and mental, and it can be life threatening in small children. It is damaged heart muscle and liver. So, yes, it is life changing. I hope one day it will be recognized as serious, life altering as diabetes or other disorders and studied thoroughly. At this point we rely on natural remedies and strict gluten-free diet because it is close to impossible to find doctor knowing what to do with celiacs.  I hope in the closest future health department  will require restaurants, claiming gluten-free products served, will require training in preparation of gluten-free Food and certification before displaying and advertising that Gluten Free products are served. It is life and health  altering condition that should be taken very seriously because complications like damage to small intestine, thyroid, heart, kidneys, and brain function is very real. Not everyone with celiac experience the same symptoms,   but why wait for complications and adverse reactions if it can be prevented by proper training in food prep and not dismissing Gluten free diet as a fed diet ? Food service industry and Health Department should look into this matter.  

    21 hours ago, Ennis_TX said:

    IT CAN cause permeant damage in some, it is a AI disease and reacts differently in everyone. It can attack other organs, the brain, and the nervous system. I have gluten ataxia, I have suffered brain and nerve damage, from nerves to organs taking damage and becoming less efficiently to losing stuff I learned in school, trades, and for a while, I even could not feel hot or cold in my hands for years. Heck, I have to take pancreas enzymes to eat food, and not eat carbs anymore and I can link these to exposures.
    There have been cases of it causing the immune system to attack a girl's kidneys, and attack a little boys liver. The immune system reacts to gluten and attacks, the skin and intestines are just the more common targets. 

     

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    Guest Anglo2000

    Posted

    On 4/29/2019 at 10:57 AM, Guest Helen said:

    This is a tough one.  Recently a waiter checked with the kitchen, assured me that the fixed-menu tomato soup was gluten-free.  It wasn't.   Within an hour I had a full-blown hit.  The problem is, if the restaurants are at huge financial risk, there is no benefit to them in being generally careful, and we will lose the gluten-free options we now have.  

    I agree that restaurants may not want to assume the liability if individuals bring lawsuits when mistakes are made. Who has not had a similar experience, I know I have but the potential cost to the celiac community that comes with a lawsuit like this impacts us all. How I dealt with a similar event at a restaurant that made an error on the pasta was to call the manager, explain what happened and the consequences to me, and to ask that they speak to their kitchen staff and retrain them. They were very genuinely concerned, apologetic and assured me that they would follow up with their staff.

    Closing thoughts are this, we have an unfortunate condition but when we eat out and hand control over to an establishment we assume the risk in the hope that nothing goes wrong in a mixed kitchen. To expect that nothing will ever go wrong in a restaurant that is not totally gluten free is a little naive. 

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    6 hours ago, Guest Anglo2000 said:

     How I dealt with a similar event at a restaurant that made an error on the pasta was to call the manager, explain what happened and the consequences to me, and to ask that they speak to their kitchen staff and retrain them. They were very genuinely concerned, apologetic and assured me that they would follow up with their staff.

    I have had restaurants express concern / care when I ask about the gluten-free options... with the exception of one particular Subway.  I know there are some sub shops that have and are glad to have gluten-free breads as options, but at this particular Subway, I was told in no uncertain terms that I could just have a salad and was then quickly ignored for another customer ordering a sub.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as 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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