Having children with allergies can make going out to eat challenging, but one family thought they’d completely diminished any possible risk with a nut-free order. However, after their daughter had a life-threatening allergic reaction, they decided to sue Panera Bread for negligence.
John Russo and his wife Elissa make sure to be adamant about making their 6-year-old daughter’s severe peanut allergy clear to staff every time they eat out. Ever since she was diagnosed at 18 months, the Russos carefully explain her condition to workers and their order at Panera Bread was no exception.
Elissa made an order on Panera’s online system and on the safe side, chose the grilled cheese sandwich, which noted in two places that it was safe for a child with a peanut allergy. However, when John arrived home later that evening, he discovered something incredibly unsettling in his daughter’s meal.
After taking a few bites into the grilled cheese, the daughter told her parents that it tasted odd. According to the Boston Globe, she noted that her stomach felt upset and began breaking out into hives. When her father went to inspect the sandwich, he found the grilled cheese had a large dollop of peanut butter inside.
The Russos immediately called a pediatrician upon their discovery and were advised to give her Benadryl as the symptoms hadn’t become serious yet. However, after their daughter began vomiting, she was rushed to Newton-Wellesley Hospital and wasn’t discharged until the following morning, requiring a shot of epinephrine. Considering the heavy dose of peanut butter, John told the Boston Globe that he called the Panera manager and asked, “Is someone doing this on purpose? Because it’s two freakin’ tablespoons of peanut butter on this sandwich, and it’s a grilled cheese!”
The Panera Bread manager reportedly apologized and blamed the mistake on a language barrier. The manager allegedly suggested that the employee with “limited English” saw the peanut butter note and assumed that the customer wanted it added to the order. However, the Russos aren’t taking the mishap lightly and are suing Panera, seeking a half million dollars in damages.
“My daughter has gone from someone who was just totally carefree to someone who, she’s just fearful,” Russo told CBS Boston. “You know for the last few months it’s just a huge change in her behavior.” While Panera includes an advisory on their website noting that they can’t guarantee items are free of allergens, attorney Mary Vargas states, “This isn’t a cross contamination case. There was a lot of peanut butter on this sandwich.”