EpiPen 'joke' in restaurant ad angers parents of children with allergies

The ad for a peanut butter and chocolate dessert tells customers: "Get those EpiPens ready."

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/ Source: TODAY
By Christine Coppa

Allergy parents are outraged at a new restaurant ad that makes light of peanut allergies.

A burger joint called "Downtown Brooklyn," located in Penrith, Australia, caused an uproar on social media with its ad promoting a new dessert, The Reese's Piece, described as "loaded with ice cream and drizzled in peanut butter and chocolate." Some parents felt the ad was insensitive, and even harmful, to kids with allergies because it read: "Get those EpiPens ready, because this is going to be worth it."

"Nothing is worth possibly dying for and I wouldn’t wish anaphylaxis on anyone, the pain of your throat closing, hoping the EpiPen does work is not something I’ll forget... I hope some educating on why this advertising is wrong takes place," Hannah Smith commented on Facebook.

Molly Rice, a self-described food allergy mom, commented that ads like this are "the very message of ignorance."

"I'm guessing you've never held your lifeless child in your arms, praying to God and anyone who will listen to please save your child who is having an anaphylactic reaction.

"I can take a joke — sometimes we have to see the humor through our struggles. But this is NOT funny in the least. This is the very attitude that sets back all the awareness and progress the food allergy community has made... I'm guessing you've never held your lifeless child in your arms, praying to God and anyone who will listen to please save your child who is having an anaphylactic reaction. I have. Do better," Rice said on Facebook.

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Massachusetts mom Alyson Segool, whose 7-year-old son, Aiden, has life-threatening allergies, was appalled by the misinformation communicated in the ad.

“Telling a massive online community to ‘Get those EpiPens ready,’ is so hurtful and dangerous, because, yes, I always have them ready and I had to use them twice on Aiden and they saved his life," said Segool. “Adults, teens, kids hear these jokes.. .a college kid smeared peanut butter on a peer, middle-schoolers deliberately threw bananas at a teacher they knew has a deadly allergy... There’s nothing LOL or even dark humor about food allergies."

Gina Clowes, of Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, is founder of AllergyMoms.com and says the ad also makes it seem like using an EpiPen is an optional way to treat a serious allergic reaction.

“I don’t want anyone to read something like that and think that you could possibly sneak a bite of something and risk a severe reaction. Or to think that you could eat something you are allergic to, if you really wanted to, and just ‘Epi yourself’ and get to the hospital,” Clowes told TODAY Parents.

About 8 percent of children have a food allergy, with peanuts the most prevalent allergen, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Almost 40 percent of food allergic children have a history of severe reactions.

Downtown Brooklyn continued to inflame parents with its response to the negative feedback. In a second post, the restaurant wrote, in part:

"We’re sorry that this world is so easily offended by the use of words. We’re sorry people no longer know how to take a joke. We’re sorry people couldn’t see the humor in this post... We’re sorry if you have a Peanut Allergy and can’t actually try this! We’re sorry our Boss is Anaphylactic..."

In subsequent posts, the restaurant suggests the "boss" of Downtown Brooklyn has a severe peanut allergy and that's who inspired the original ad, and who "found it highly amusing."

TODAY Parents reached out to Downtown Brooklyn for comment, but did not get a response.

The Hershey Company did confirm the restaurant's ad is “unauthorized, not endorsed or supported by the Reese’s brand.”

“Our Reese’s brand was not involved with the creation of this post nor are we connected with the Australian eatery," said Hershey representative Anna Lingeris, adding the company sincerely understands "the sensitivity around food allergies, and are in full agreement that making light of food allergies is simply not appropriate, in any situation.”

The "apology" made by Downtown Brooklyn on Facebook has at least one customer deciding to not return for the Reese's Piece, burgers, or anything else.

Lisa Jay commented: “Wow, you’ve shown what sort of company you are with this post. As a past customer I came to your page expecting to see an apology from you — instead I find this. Thank you for making sure that my family will never eat at your venue again.”

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