Burger bungles cause allergic alarm

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Tauranga mum Lee-anne Swinburne has laid a complaint against McDonald's after the fast-food outlet on three occasions overlooked requests for a ketchup-free burger. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times
Tauranga mum Lee-anne Swinburne has laid a complaint against McDonald's after the fast-food outlet on three occasions overlooked requests for a ketchup-free burger. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times

The mother of a 3-year-old allergic to tomatoes says her son could have died after McDonald's staff in Tauranga failed to meet a special request for a burger without ketchup - three times.

Last week Lee-anne Swinburne went to the 11th Ave McDonald's branch with her son Aiden.

She asked that a burger be made without ketchup for Aiden because of his allergy to tomatoes.

However, when she got home she found sauce inside the burger - despite a sticker on the wrapper and her receipt saying it was to be made without sauce. It was the third time in six months her request had been overlooked, she said.

On the first occasion Ms Swinburne let the matter slide as "everyone's human and makes mistakes".

The second time she gave a new manager the benefit of the doubt, she said.

But this time she could not think of any reasonable excuse for the incident happening again.

"They just don't realise the seriousness and severity of what they are doing. It could kill him in 10 minutes."

At home Ms Swinburne keeps an EpiPen and medicine used to treat anaphylactic shock in emergencies. Aiden has gone into anaphylactic shock previously from tomatoes.

"If it happened to someone else who actually lets their kids eat it not knowing ... it's just not good enough," she said.

A McDonald's spokeswoman said it took incidents like this seriously as food safety was of the "utmost importance" to its restaurants. "As soon as we were alerted of the incident the restaurant contacted the family to apologise and explain the steps that were taking place. At the same time a full investigation was completed."

A review of closed-circuit TV footage showed processes normally in place for customised orders had not been fully followed, she said.

"Restaurant staff have been retrained and reminded of the importance of following all procedures."

Allergy New Zealand chief executive Penny Jorgensen said eating out was a major challenge for allergy sufferers. "It sounds in this instance that the McDonald's staff did not understand the serious nature of food allergy and did not follow procedures. In doing so they may have put this child at risk of a serious reaction."

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