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    Scott Adams

    P.F. Chang's is Sued for Extra Charges on Gluten-Free Menu Items

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: Photo: CC--Mark Crawley

    Celiac.com 02/02/2015 - On December 9th, 2014, Anna Marie Phillips filed a lawsuit in Santa Clara County Superior Court against P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Inc., headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, for discrimination and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit claims that P.F. Chang's forces people with celiac disease to pay higher prices for gluten-free versions of their menu items. According to the complaint, P.F. Chang's charges one extra dollar per gluten-free item, however, they do not add these surcharges on to their regular menu items.

    Photo: CC--Mark CrawleyThe lawsuit is seeking class action status, and claims that over the past four years more than 3,000 people in 39 states have been affected at P.F. Chang's 204 restaurants. The plaintiff claims that the gluten-free diet is medically necessary for those with celiac disease, and those who eat at P.F. Chang's are forced to pay higher prices for gluten-free dishes, even if the dishes they order are naturally gluten-free. The plaintiff asserts that this arbitrary and unequal treatment constitues discrimination against consumers who have celiac disease and gluten intolerance, and that the added surcharge is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    In the lawsuit Ms. Phillips and her attorneys, Anthony J. Orshansky and Justin Kachadoorian of Counselone, P.C. in Beverly Hills, California, seek an immediate injunction against any further surcharges on gluten-free items, civil penalties, compensatory damages and punitive damages. P.F. Chang's is represented by Jon P. Karbassakis and Michael K. Grimaldi of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, in Los Angeles, California.

    On January 23, 2015, P.F. Chang's removed the case to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (case number 5:15-cv-00344).

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    Thanks for bringing this news story to our attention. I was fuming when I heard about this frivolous lawsuit. I agree with so many of the comments here, indicating appreciation for a restaurant that does such a good job of accommodating gluten-free as P.F. Chang's does and that we don't mind paying a little extra. Maybe if we each jot a note or send an e-mail to P.F. Chang's showing them our appreciation and support, that would show them how so many of us feel.

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    I think everyone is missing what she's suing for. She's saying PF Chang is charging extra for foods that are already naturally gluten free! That's ridiculous! We shouldn't be charged extra for things that are naturally gluten-free!

    @HaloGirl

     

    No, you are missing the point. If she (or you) don't like the pricing structure of this business, do not frequent their establishment or transact your money to them. Simple.

     

    Further, while the food may be naturally gluten free, it is being served in an environment that has gluten in it. They have to implement processes and resources to ensure the food labeled gluten free, remains gluten free, regardless if it was naturally so, before arriving in the restaurant. P.F. Chang's says that accommodation will cost you an extra $1...they could say it costs an extra $30 and there would be no grounds for a lawsuit. Of course no one would buy it either. If you don't want to pay the extra dollar to P.F. Chang's, go somewhere else or just prepare these naturally gluten free foods yourself.

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    While I agree this lawsuit is ridiculous, you cannot downplay the effects of celiac disease. My son may not go into anaphylaxis when he eats some thing with gluten in it, he certainly will get sick and left untreated by eating "normal" food can result in serious digestive problems, malnourishment, even cancer. Please don't act like celiac is no big deal because the symptoms are not overtly obvious to you.

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    I think it is more likely to cause more restaurants to stop catering to people on a gluten-free diet than to make them lower prices.

    Thanks for the article. I agree that when we berate restaurants that are trying to do a good thing by serving gluten free properly and safely (not an easy thing to do), we discourage them from serving gluten free at all. I don't mind paying a little extra , because it does cost more to provide gluten free in a committed way like P.F. Chang's does. My counter to the negativity of the frivolous lawsuit in CA was to send an e-mail to P.F. Chang's thanking them for their ongoing commitment to gluten free. I'm hoping others might do the same.

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    celiac disease is real and is a very painful and serious condition...consuming gluten for some of us can and does result in real physical harm...when I was eating real food I was alive, but just barely...suffering all the time

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    Please don't ruin this for the rest of us (celiacs) Anna Marie. P.F. Chang's, please don't stop serving gluten-free foods. Just make sure your cooks and servers are fully informed and compliant. I believe I should pay extra for that service.

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    Now we have to move forward with companies that manufacture gluten-free products and grocery store that charge 3 times or more for gluten-free products compared to others.

    Jeanne: So in your way of thinking, wheat flour and gluten-free flour (despite having different ingredients that have higher costs to produce ) should all cost the consumer the same amount. How did you come up with that paradigm? If so, let's have grocery stores make EVERYTHING the same price. Nothing should cost more than something else, right? That seems like the recipe for getting grocery stores to discontinue selling gluten-free foods. If that happens, perhaps you can become the grower, processor and distributor of your own line of gluten-free products and see if your business model of having gluten-free flour (for example) can be sold for the same cost as regular wheat flour. Good luck with that.

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    This is the price we pay for awareness of cross contamination, instruction of wait staff and necessary attention to specific details in a busy restaurant. This suit will discourage a lot of restaurants from embarking on offering gluten free items on the menu. Why are people so anxious to create a rumpus? I was diagnosed in the mid 80's and I never ate out because it no one had a clue what to serve me. Legal Seafood was the first restaurant in the New England to do so.

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    Celiac.com's Founder and CEO, Scott was diagnosed with celiac disease  in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. Scott launched the site that later became Celiac.com in 1995 "To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives."  In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

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