The Morrisons were hoping to enjoy their stay at Haven Holiday Park in Burnham-on-Sea where they had gone for a bit of family R&R. Then the unthinkable happened.
7-year-old Caleb, his parents, and sister, sat down to enjoy a meal at the resort’s restaurant. The family had been told they could simply scan a QR code and select a meal for Caleb that was safe for his milk and shellfish allergies.
When the food arrived, Caleb tucked into the fries. Shortly afterward is when the trouble started.
Said Nathan Morrison, Caleb’s dad:
Caleb’s lips started to swell, and I asked if there was anywhere private I could go to administer the EpiPen. We ended up being shown to the disabled toilets where I injected it into his leg on the baby changing bed. My wife ended up having to call an ambulance.
By this point, Caleb’s face had swollen and he was having difficulty breathing. Morrison claims the ambulance was held at the gate with lights flashing for two or three minutes before it was allowed to enter the resort.
“I wasn’t even able to leave and follow my son to Taunton’s Musgrove Hospital until I had filled out a load of paperwork,” he added.
On the way to the hospital, Caleb suffered another anaphylactic reaction in the ambulance and was kept overnight for observation, presumably to rule out subsequent biphasic reactions.
The family left the hospital the following day.
A spokesperson for Haven Holidays said:
The health and safety of our guests is our number one priority and all our employees are allergen trained. In line with our stringent health and safety policies around allergies, our server informed the family prior to their meal that we could not guarantee fried food would be allergen-free.
Regrettably, a child with allergies ate a portion of chips [fries] which the table ordered and had an allergic reaction. The family was provided with medical support straight after the incident.
We are sorry for the Morrisons who wanted nothing more than to enjoy some family time like millions of other families do, but are grateful that Caleb survived the ordeal and that tragedy was averted.
We are also grateful the Morrisons quickly determined that Caleb was suffering a serious reaction and immediately administered his epinephrine auto-injector. That action may well have saved their son’s life.
The Morrison’s even took steps to protect Caleb when dining out by inquiring about safe foods he could eat. But that’s where the story gets murky, depending on whether they were indeed warned by restaurant staff about the danger of fried foods as stated by the venue’s spokesman.
We take this opportunity to warn our allergic readers that consuming foods prepared in a deep fryer is like playing Russian Roulette unless that fryer is dedicated to a specific food, like french fries.
Deep fryers use the same oil to cook all the foods that are prepared in them and that oil may not be changed for days, weeks, or even months. When the oil finally is changed, the fryer itself may not be adequately cleaned before it is refilled.
That means an allergic individual could be exposed to cross-contact with every allergen that was cooked in the device over time, which may include eggs, wheat, soy, milk, fish, shellfish, sesame, or any other allergen that found its way into the fryer.
If you do decide on ordering a deep-fried food like fries, make sure to inquire whether it will be cooked in a dedicated fryer to ensure there is no opportunity for cross-contact with your allergen of concern, and that includes the oil that is used.