Hospitality Industry Legal Risks: “Severe Food Allergies” Now Classified As A Disability Under ADA Law

“…the agreement says that food allergies may constitute a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act, if they are severe enough. The definition was made possible under 2009 amendments to the disability law Americans wih disabilities actthat allowed for episodic impairments that substantially limit activity…restaurants who post their ingredients can help those with allergies decide whether they even want to buy the food…”

The new law that now classifies severe food allergy as a disability applies to those severely allergic to gluten, peanuts, shell fish, corn, wheat, and other food allergens. What it translates to is of interest to hospitals, colleges, and other institutions to offer food and put labels on those buffet bars letting people with severe food allergies know what’s in the food. The settlement relates to the disability law. Severe, not mild food allergies can be considered a disability under the law.

A public restaurant also could be liable for a lawsuit by a customer if the business ignored a customer’s request for certain foods. But if the customer had the courage to eat there, even out of spite, and that person became ill knowing the restaurant brushed off the one customer’s request for serving food to which the customer isn’t allergic, or food not containing the ingredient responsible for the severe allergy, that case might be harder to argue because the restaurant might say the customer became sick from food eaten elsewhere.

The restaurant would have to know the customer well enough to have served food for that particular customer enough times that the cooks and food handlers or servers would know the allergy requests of that particular customer. The problem with this argument is that turnover in restaurant employees would throw the customer a curve ball so to speak, since new food handlers or cooks wouldn’t know the customer by face or name unless they were told and remembered or saw where the lists of familiar customers with allergies were posted.

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Filed under Food Illnesses, Guest Issues, Health, Liability, Management And Ownership, Training

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