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Florida brewery faces backlash for its ‘Epi Pen’ peanut-flavoured beer | CBC News

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A brewery in Florida is facing backlash over its peanut-flavoured beer. Not because of the ingredients or the flavour, but because of its name: Epi Pen Peanut Butter Ale.

“Peanut butter week starts today,” an employee of Playalinda Brewing Company in Titusville, Fla., says in an Instagram reel posted five days ago. In the video, he leans on a case of Epi Pen beer.

EpiPen is the trade name for a type of auto-injector used by people with severe allergies — such as peanuts — during an anaphylactic reaction, which can be deadly. It’s estimated that about six per cent of Canadian children and three-to-four per cent of Canadian adults have food allergies, according to Health Canada. Peanuts are one of the most common allergens.

Earlier this year, a dancer with a severe peanut allergy died after eating an incorrectly labelled cookie in New York City, even after using her EpiPen. Last October, a doctor with severe nut and dairy allergies died after eating at a Disney Springs restaurant in Disney World, also after using her EpiPen.

Playalinda Brewing Company could not immediately be reached for comment.

They’re not the first company to come under fire for making light of food allergies. Earlier this year, Uber Eats removed a scene from its Super Bowl ad that depicted a man having an allergic reaction to peanut butter, following backlash from some consumers and food allergy advocates. 

A man with a swollen eye and hives breaking out on his forward reads the label of a peanut butter jar.
A SuperBowl commercial for Uber Eats shows a man having an anaphylactic reaction after forgetting that peanuts are the main ingredient in peanut butter. After backlash from food allergy advocates, the company said it will remove the scene from its ad when the spot airs during the SuperBowl on Sunday. (Uber Eats/YouTube)

“These kind of actions alienate individuals with food allergy. But the real harm is the fact that it’s reducing the perception of the seriousness of life-threatening food allergy with the broader community,” Jennifer Gerdts, the executive director of Food Allergy Canada, told CBC News.

“It’s basically reinforcing that it’s OK to make fun of a potentially life-threatening condition.”

Making light of allergies common, potentially dangerous

Playalinda Brewing Company’s posts about its Peanut Butter Week and Epi Pen ale appear to go back several years. While the beer isn’t currently listed on its website and at least one Facebook post promoting it appears to have been taken down, its online Peanut Butter Week menu still listed Epi Pen Peanut Butter ale as its top beer as of Wednesday morning.

“I get the world will have peanut butter liquor and beers — one of my greatest fears with my son going off to college next year — but naming a beer ‘Epi-Pen’ is inappropriate at best — encouraging humour which often leads to those with allergies being treated poorly or laughed at,” Lianne Mandelbaum, who runs the website The No-Nut Traveler, wrote in  a Facebook post over the weekend.

“Calling a beer ‘Epi-Pen,’ especially if it’s peanut-flavoured, is absurd and insensitive. It downplays the life-saving role of EpiPens,” the Elijah-Alavi Foundation wrote in a post on X. The foundation is run by the family of Elijah Silvera, a three-year-old boy who died of an allergic reaction to a dairy product in 2017.

“In settings like college, this kind of humour harms more than it amuses, eroding empathy for those with life-threatening allergic conditions,” the post continued.

Food allergies are often the butt of jokes in media and movies. For instance, the 2022 film Puss in Boots: The Last Wish depicts the cat losing one of its nine lives to a shellfish allergy. 

The comedy Monster-in-Law shows Jennifer Lopez’s character have a severe reaction to almonds after her mother-in-law sneaks them into her meal the night before the wedding.

And people are often victims of allergy bullying, where they are sometimes exposed to their allergens. A case in Texas  recently made headlines after a football player’s teammates filled his locker with peanuts, knowing he was allergic to them.

Research shows that making fun of any medical condition is dangerous because it diminishes its perceived seriousness, Gerdt said. And the allergy community relies on having an informed community to support navigating safe food choices and avoid having potentially life-threatening reactions.

“Sometimes people will say, ‘Can’t you take a joke?’ I get it, but when you look at the broader implications around the community taking it less seriously, that is counter to what the community needs.”

WATCH | Some schools are lifting nut bans: 

Some schools are allowing nuts again despite allergy risks

Canadian researchers found that restricting foods, such as nuts and peanuts, at schools isn’t the best way to protect kids from life-threatening allergic reactions. CBC’s Deana Sumanac-Johnson breaks down the change.



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