Australian restaurant has been fined over $100 000 after allergy death

In October 2017 an Australian citizen, Nathan Anderson, died from an anaphylactic reaction after eating hummus in a Lebanese restaurant in Wollongong. Despite he discussed his allergies with the staff, he was offered a plate containing tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds, which Nathan was allergic to. Recently, New South Wales Supreme Court fined the restaurant over $100 000 because its staff did not have a proper plan for dealing with allergen and food safety management.  

Lack of food safety culture is an emerging problem in western nations. Food allergies cause 150-200 deaths annually in the USA, and more than a half occur in restaurants or other food service establishments. A report published by CDC in the Journal of Food Protection analyzed 278 US restaurants, finding some alarming data - 12% of restaurant workers believe that small amounts of the allergenic ingredients cannot cause harm to the allergic customer, 25% of restaurants stated that their staff would not know what to do in case a customer has an anaphylactic reaction, and only 22% of the menus mentioned something about allergens. A 2017 EHS-Net study found that less than 20% of restaurants use dedicated utensils when preparing meals for allergic customers, increasing the risk of cross-contamination of allergenic ingredients.  

According to the survey, 34% of restaurants had at least one experience which led to an allergic reaction. For this reason, there are some associations, such as Anaphylaxis Campaign, that aspire to strengthen food safety culture and implement laws that protect allergic customer’s health. Their purpose is to raise awareness about allergenic reactions that allergic people experience and to further educate restaurants and industry staff in order to ensure safer behavior and regulation on food safety.