Man Sues McDonald’s After Suffering Anaphylaxis from Big Mac


According to a lawsuit filed last week, Charles Olsen, a 28-year-old man with a milk allergy, ordered a Big Mac from McDonald’s using the DoorDash app in 2021. He specifically requested “No American Cheese” for the burger.

Charles Olsen

After the burger arrived, he took a few bites and “immediately felt like something wasn’t right.

According to the suit, “His throat began to itch and swell. He felt a burning sensation throughout his body. He looked at his girlfriend, Alexandra, and coughed ‘there’s milk in this!’”

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His body was covered in hives and he struggled to breathe. His girlfriend rushed him to the hospital where he was admitted for anaphylaxis and almost needed intubation. He finally stabilized hours later.

He holds McDonald’s responsible for causing his anaphylaxis. The lawsuit claims there was no allergy warning or cross-contamination warning when he submitted his order.

Said Olsen in a statement from his lawyers:

I’ve had to go through my entire life having to tiptoe around menus, dealing with staff that doesn’t know how to handle food allergies, and so on.

Allergies should be such a simple thing to be able to cater to as an establishment. There’s no reason why it can’t be clearly listed, options aren’t included when making an order to indicate allergies, and the staff properly trained to handle such a simple thing.

There has been progress made thankfully, but it is not enough. No one should have to fear for their health when they’re just trying to eat a meal.

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Jory Lange, a lawyer for Olsen, said his client had placed his no-cheese order from the same chain multiple other times without a problem and believed he could trust the restaurant.

“This was a really, really traumatic experience for him,” Lange said. “Just imagine you’re eating a meal and suddenly your throat starts closing up.”

Declining to comment for this story, the McDonald’s franchise owner issued a statement saying: “Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers. We take every complaint seriously and are actively reviewing these claims.”

Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening reaction to a food, drug, insect venom or environmental substance like latex. Epinephrine is the only drug that can halt and reverse the progression of anaphylaxis, but it must be administered soon after the onset of symptoms to be most effective. Be sure to take two epinephrine auto-injectors along everywhere, every time and administer one when you first suspect anaphylaxis.

We advise readers with food allergies to consider how most fast-food establishments operate. There are many shared surfaces where cross-contact can occur, and the kitchen staff often have minimal training.

Although we don’t know whether there was cheese on the burger as delivered, when you do order food out, always be sure to carefully check your meal when served/delivered to make sure your instructions were followed.

We also discourage food allergy sufferers from ordering through delivery apps where there are no clear procedures for how your allergen concerns will be relayed to the food establishment. Instead, speak directly with the management of the establishment, and if they can’t accommodate you safely, move on.

Have you had a bad reaction to food ordered at a fast-food restaurant? Let us know in the comment section below.

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Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom is CEO and "Blogger in Chief" of

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  1. No, it has not happened to me, but I have had to return my orders from restaurants countless times. Sometimes more than once!

  2. My daughter suffers from a tree nut allergy. Our McDonalds’ stores have a general allergen warning on the drive through menus. Surely, they also have them indoors and on-line. If not, then this could be a problem. I tell my daughter that she’s taking a risk everytime she orders at any restaurant if she doesnt speak directly to a manager who is keenly aware of the dangers of food allergies. On several occassions, we’ve left restaurants when we felt the level of competency regarding the severity of her food allergy was lacking. Her life just isnt worth it. And, yes, she knows to always carry 2 up-to-date Epi-pens; whether or not she does that as an adult… only she knows.

    • That’s BIG facts. People need to understand no one’s OBLIGATED to care. Every time you go outside to eat with severe allergies you take a risk on your life. I don’t think McDonald’s is liable tbh. You’re doing exactly the right thing explaining all the dangers to her 🫶🏼

  3. We have fortunately not had a bad reaction but we have had a very poor response from the staff when inquiring about allergens. The impression I got is that they have been trained not to answer any questions about allergens at all and to simply direct the consumer to the list on the website. This goes against everything we as allergen parents do which is check and double check all ingredients and reading the labels on the specific items before allowing our kid to consume them. The excuse that “these are teenagers” is pathetic. If they’re serving food they should have a clear understanding of the dangers of food allergies.

  4. I just can’t even get to the point of eating out with my son who is six and has a peanut allergy. I just don’t trust any establishment. It’s paralyzing.

    • I know that fear and paralysis all too well! Oral immunotherapy for my son’s peanut allergy changed BOTH of our lives. He’s now almost 14 and consumes peanut m&ms nightly to maintain desensitization and we no longer live in fear!

  5. As the parent of a child with a life threatening peanut allergy I completely understand the concerns and the frustration. However it is OUR responsibility to to act with common sense. I would NEVER order food from my son with Door Dash or pretty much even online. There is way too much room for mistakes, especially when dealing with multiple parties. Plus ordering from McDonalds?!? I have to seriously question the judgement of the victim here.

    • I Totally agree with you, Michael.
      If My Child or Myself has a Food Allergy that is Serious Enuff to Kill Me….as long as I have the Ability….I’m going to Cook, Prepare and Check that All is Well for Ingesting! Most of Us Already Know Fast Food is made Fast and Inaccurate Most of the Time….I’d really have To See All the Ingredients prior to preparing my food…life is too short to put it into the hands of someone who doesn’t Know U or Care about Your Serious Health situations as it is!
      One mistaken mixup on your Food delivery could be Your Last Meal! 🤔

  6. Given the nature of fast food restaurant operations, (and yes I’ve worked at McDonald’s) and the fact that McDonald’s already has generic allergen warnings in the store and website, I’m not sure this is realistically going to change anything for the better. I’ve had BK repeatedly screw up cheese/no cheese instructions on whoppers, chain restaurant menu ingredients change regularly, there is extremely high cross contamination, significant personnel churn, etc. You want highly processed food super fast and cheap… that’s not likely to be allergy-friendly. We have more luck at other types of restaurants where they can take a little more time to follow procedures to avoid cross contamination, customize orders, etc. Fortunately, it’s been years since my son experienced anaphylaxis from eating out. In that case, I was able to speak to the owner who took full responsibility for the chain of mistakes that led to the situation, and she made operational and training changes going forward that benefitted all patrons.

  7. Since my daughter was 2yrs to 15yrs now, she has needed to use an epipen 13 times. Some were from meals at fast food restaurants we were previously OK with. There was never any visible cheese or tree nuts, so we assume it was accidental cross-contamination. We had a few “go-to” places, but one by one, we had an issue. We just don’t eat out anymore. For us, it’s too risky.

  8. For context, I have over a dozen anaphylactic food allergies and over 3 dozen total.
    So… dude is anaphylactic to milk and ordered no cheese, expecting there not to be dairy in any other product or to avoid cross contamination in a fast food restaurant with entry level employees? Look. This is a frivolous law suit. He has a severe medical condition. Anyone with anaphylaxis knows better to avoid these types of places unless they’re actively looking for trouble. And if you DO eat there, anyone with anaphylaxis KNOWS to ask for the ingredients/allergy binder. And if that’s not available, you ask to see the label. And if all of that checks out, you let the restaurant know you need your food prepared in an allergy safe space separate from everything else. Minimum wage employees are not health care professionals and they are not responsible for your health issues. You are. And if you’re unwilling to check everything to the nth degree yet willing to gamble your life for a Big Mac, you’re either actively looking for trouble or stupid, or both.

  9. Stay home and prepare your own food if you suffer from food allergies. Especially don’t eat at fast food restaurants. What’s more important? Eating a Big Mac or your life. Buy some ground beef and some buns and cook your burgers at home. Life can suck, but you have to play the cards you are dealt with. Don’t expect strangers to look out for you. Stay safe and be smart.

  10. Why wouldn’t you double check your order before eating it if the consequences were so life threatening? He was his own last line of defense in that situation. Frivolous lawsuit…

  11. Don’t eat at McDonald’s if you have food allergies or any other fast food joint. Don’t expect minimum wage employees to look out for your safety other than the normal safety practices we hopefully all follow. Stay safe and cook your own burgers at home.

    • I can see your point not eating out if you have this kind of allergies. What I don’t like about your comment. feeling you need to put down minimum wage employees. I’m not sure what you do for a living. I don’t really care !! I just read about a man who worked for McDonalds for over 25 yrs. He loved his job he never missed a day. He talked about how he loved the customers who came in to just see and talk to him. I’m sure he watched what he did as well as alot other employees. That’s a unfair statement and people make 14.50$ starting. That’s not bad at all. More then I made starting out in the days. I don’t think you should feel the need to put others down when making a point. Thank you….

  12. I feel as if he suffers from this condition like he does.He should of checked the burger before eating it. Places are known to get orders mixed up or different scenarios. That said it is also McDonalds fault for not getting his order correct. Fault falls on both parties.

  13. I didn’t know how you couldn’t know there was cheese on your burger before you ate it. McDonald’s cheese is always sticking out side the burger in plain sight. You should always check your food before you eat it especially with food allergies. I think it is 100 percent your fault for not checking your food when you got it!

    • Not true, Bob. The Filet O’Fish has half slice of cheese on it that is not ” sticking out side.” Is the bread made with milk? What about sauces and condiments? Have those croutons on your salad been made with butter? ASSUME NOTHING. Be orally responsible. Only you are accountable for what goes into and comes out of your mouth.

  14. I also have a milk allergy. I have learned the hard way. Here are some time tested rules to stay alive: always carry an epipen or a vial of epinephrine and syringe, never eat food you have not prepared yourself, read every label on packaged food, if you must go to a restaurant bring something simple to eat. I also carry a card that I give to the manager (one side in english, one in spanish) that clearly shows my allergy. I will not order unless the manager or preparer writes their name on the card and returns when my food is served. I have no qualms about causing a scene.

    For the most part, fast food workers are neither caring or educated enough to deal with food allergies. This is not their fault but that of management. We must learn to value food service workers by training and remunerating them well.

    “Don’t have a cow, man” – Bart Simpson

  15. Not McDonald’s fault in the least. He’s a grown man who admittedly has lived with this his whole life. McDonald’s didn’t intend to harm him. He could have looked at the burger first as he likely does every other time he eats.

  16. This is a dangerous situation obviously but it is your condition. I would never eat out. If I did I would check everything. In the end it is you whose throat is closing not McDonald’s so step up every time and check it before you eat it.

  17. So im allergic to horseradish and Panera put it on my sandwich one time. So i should sue? No because aa an adult with a severe allergy i always check my food.

  18. I’ll be the one to say it. That’s his fault why in the f— him knowing he has a food allergy and milk allergy at that would he eat at a fast food restaurant doesn’t make any sense to me everyone looks at their fool before they eat it to check and see if the order was right sounds like somebody trying to get paid an easy bag. I said what I said

  19. This might be stressful for the employees as well when dealing with people that have food allergies. Not every employee isn’t going to know what types of ingredients the bread, meat, sauces etc have. They will need to take more of their time to figure it out and look at the labels for the ingredients. Which will suck when you are at rush hour

  20. I’m sorry but of all places you order from McDonald’s,and on top of it order it from a 3rd party and you have food allergies!?!? That’s just insane.. You obviously don’t care for your health in the first place just eating at that place. The things already known to be in the food alone steers me from there. Praying for the guy, that he’s better but there’s definitely lessons to be learned here. And from the looks of things and knowing that McDonald’s probably have some serious lawyers I doubt he’s going to barely get anything…

  21. If i know im allergic to something and i order fastfood,especially when getting it delivered,i always check my food to be safe,thats just common sense…if you check to make sure you got all your food,you should check to see if it is made right…cds shouldn’t be reasonable for you not checking,it all goes through a 3rd party,so you 50/50 chance of your order being messed up…

  22. This is a bs lawsuit. Or we need more information. If you say no cheese, how is the person making the burger to know it’s not just a preference. Maybe the cheese was added then scraped off. Unless you are in the restaurant ordering you really have no control. Everything you read about dining out states that you check for allergen protocols, discuss the allergy with a manager, ensure they can prepare a safe meal, then check again when you get your meal it’s okay. We have to take responsibility and restaurants cannot be 100% in charge of our safety unless we have followed the proper procedures on our end.


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