Parents Sue Panera For Putting Peanut Butter In Their Severely Allergic Child's Grilled Cheese

A simple request to assure the safety of a child with a severe peanut allergy almost turned deadly at a Panera in Natick, Massachusetts, and the parents are suing. Parents of a 6-year-old girl placed an online order for Panera in January and noted in two places that the child had a peanut allergy. Due to what was allegedly a language barrier mix-up, the restaurant actually put two tablespoons of peanut butter on the grilled cheese and the little girl was rushed to the hospital where she spent multiple days recovering.

The parents, Elissa and John Russo, have chosen to sue the Panera New England franchise for negligence, saying the sandwich chain, "engaged in unfair and deceptive business practices by adding peanut butter to the plaintiff's grilled cheese sandwich knowing that [she] has a life-threatening peanut allergy."

John Russo told the media that he called the Panera location that night to complain and a manager apologized, blaming the issue on a language mix-up. Russo said that he was clear in his instructions and that the supposed mix-up was "no excuse" for what happened. The same incident allegedly happened at another restaurant owned by the same franchise.

"They're saying there were two different cases at two different restaurants of ours where someone ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and said they had a peanut allergy and they were served grilled cheese sandwiches with peanut butter in them?" Mitchell Roberts, operating partner of PR Restaurants, Roberts told The Boston Globe. "That doesn't sound feasible."

Panera has responded to the case in a brief media statement but will not comment on the specifics of the pending litigation:

"We take the issue of food allergens, including the reported incident at our franchise bakery-cafe, very seriously. We have procedures in place across the company to minimize exposure and risk for our guests and associates."