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Gluten? What Gluten?

Most of us have one or two allergies that we are aware of. Perhaps hay fever strikes us each year or cats bring about a sneezing fit. While these can indeed be annoying, food allergies can be dangerous and if not treated correctly, even deadly. One example of such a situation was seen to unfold in Jamie Oliver's Restaurant in Portsmouth.

In May of 2013, a woman and her husband visited this well-reputed Italian establishment looking forward to an expertly prepared meal that was complimented by cordial and friendly service. One particular reason that the couple had chosen Jamie Oliver's Restaurant is that their menu was advertised to be gluten-free. This was understandably important, for the woman was suffering from a long-term illness known as Celiac Disease. This debilitating condition is quite dangerous and in the case of the woman, the ingestion of any gluten whatsoever can be severely dangerous; even deadly.

She made this quite clear to the staff. In fact, she even explicitly informed the management of her condition. Although she was all but assured that their pasta contained no gluten, she was served regular pasta. Unsurprisingly, she became violently ill and her life was in jeopardy for a short period of time. What was even worse was that this woman had been on a waiting list to receive both a heart and a lung transplant. This incident actually removed her from this list and it is currently unknown as to whether she has been reinstated.

Thankfully, the woman recovered. The same cannot be said regarding the restaurant, its finances and its overall reputation. Due to the celebrity status of Jaime Oliver, word spread quickly. A spokesperson for the restaurant stated that there had been "confusion" with the order and after further publicity, an apology was given. If you are thinking that an apology alone would hardly suffice, it seems that the authorities were in complete agreement. Jamie Oliver's restaurant was slapped with no less than an eight thousand pound fine; payable directly to the woman in question. This is considered to be a landmark case, for it is one of the first times such a stiff fine has been levied against an eating establishment for serving food that contains gluten when it had been specifically instructed not to.

Naturally, this is but an isolated incident and it cannot be assumed that this treatment is indicative of the level of service of Jamie Oliver's Restaurant as a whole. Still, the legal and financial ramifications were quite severe (and rightfully so, in this case). The court settlement also stipulated that the victim can speak publicly about her case, so the fallout may not be completely over for the restaurant. It is also a wise bet that neither the woman nor her husband will be frequenting the establishment again any time soon.

Copyright Carole Fletcher 2014