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A Restaurant Is Under Fire for Mocking Food Allergies – but Is the Criticism Valid?

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Anaphylaxis, a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction, affects almost one in 50 Americans and one in 1,000 Brits. It is a debilitating condition which without prompt medical assistance has the potential to be fatal.

I personally live with anaphylaxis, and I’ve lived with the condition for the past nine years now. Every day I live in fear that I could go through an anaphylactic reaction. I have many allergies, and many of them have the real potential of anaphylaxis. In the past nine years, I’ve experienced well over 200 severe allergic reactions. Well over 50 occasions resulted in an admission to intensive care, with several of those admissions resulting in nearly being put to sleep and ventilated because I was so unwell.

One of the symptoms of anaphylaxis can be a “fear of impending doom” — essentially a fear you’re going to die. It’s absolutely terrifying to experience and is probably all too familiar for so many people who live with anaphylaxis. Fortunately in today’s society, with all the awareness surrounding allergies and anaphylaxis thanks to countless charities, those who live with it and, sadly, the all too real fatalities as the result of anaphylaxis, most people, eateries and companies worldwide take allergies and anaphylaxis seriously. New laws are being introduced to make the world a safer place for those living with anaphylaxis.

Sadly though, occasionally things happen that bring you back to Earth and remind you that not everyone, and not every company, is going to be sensitive towards allergies. They may even go as far as mocking allergies and anaphylaxis. The other day, I stumbled upon a post on Facebook which reminded me of that very real possibility.

Downtown Brooklyn Penrith is an Australian burger bar. This month, they posted a rather insensitive Facebook post about a new dessert they were promoting. It was a Reese’s themed dessert that contains peanuts.

In their status they wrote things like, “Get those Epipen’s ready, because this is going to be worth it!” and, “This giant Reese’s Piece is sure to get the heart racing! Loaded with Ice Cream and drizzled in Peanut Butter and Chocolate, it sure screams, get me to the hospital ASAP!”

There was an uproar on their status from not only the allergy community but members of the public who were outraged at what they were reading. The post reached people worldwide after it was shared in countless allergy groups, Facebook pages, Facebook profiles and allergy-related charities. Many people wanted the eatery to take down the Facebook post and make an apology for the clear offense they caused from their status. But their response to the feedback was just as insensitive. They continued to mock anaphylaxis in their version of an apology, which featured phrases like, “We’re sorry that this world is so easily offended by the use of words,” “We’re sorry that people need to lighten up,” and, “We’re sorry we won’t ever delete the post.” They also tried to suggest their post was OK because their “boss is anaphylactic” and she found it amusing.

This post received mixed responses, including outrage from charities and the allergy community. However, there was also an influx of comments stating that people who were offended by the status were “snowflakes,” needed to “lighten up,” needed to “find their sense of humor” and were “butt hurt.”

A third status was then released on the same day which continued to mock anaphylaxis. A petition had been started by a concerned member of the allergy community in an attempt to get the two statuses removed. The eatery shared the petition mocking it saying things such as, “I think with all your help we can get this not only to 500, but hit that 5k mark!” and, “We forgot to mention. May contain traces of nuts.” Again, it received the same mixed responses as the second status that had been shared.

Downtown Brooklyn Penrith continue to stand their ground and believe they’ve done nothing wrong. What do you think about this situation? Let me know in the comments whether or not the allergy community has the right to be outraged by this situation — or if it’s simply a piece of harmless fun that has been taken too literally.

Originally published: August 23, 2019
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