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Old 05-06-2007, 08:10 PM   #1
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Restaurant-Must they tell me the ingredients ?

Does anyone know if there is a US law (individual state law?) that requires a restaurant to tell me what ingredients are in the food that they are serving me?

My daughter had a tuna sald sub today from a popular (newer) sub chain. They claim it's made with a "zesty tuna sauce"....She got sick. It was all she ate.
I called the store and nicely asked what the ingredients were in this tuna salad as she was having some type of reaction. The guy on the other end refused to tell me. Said it was a "secret" recipe. I told him I wasn't asking for the recipe, I was asking for the ingredients. I don't care HOW they make it. He still refused.

Can anyone give me some direction?

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Old 05-06-2007, 08:17 PM   #2
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Regardless of the "recipe," it sounds as though your daughter has a case of food poisioning. First, you should report the incident to the health department in your area. Secondly, I am not aware of any law that dictates that the ingredients should be disclosed. My rcommendation would be to contact the manager, if you haven't already, of the restaurant and tell him what happened. When you called the store, you probably spoke to whomever answered the phone. If you don't get any satisfaction, keep asking "Who's your supervisor?" until you get results. The squeaky wheel gets the oil.
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Old 05-06-2007, 08:35 PM   #3
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Could be a food allergy. I would persue the ingredients list for the sandwich, so that you can help your daughter better when she goes to the doctor if need be. Kids can get allergies at any age, so I'm not sure if your's has suddenly become allergic to tuna? Or the dressing? Are you sure your daughter ate nothing else beside that? As far as I know, most people do not get sick the same day from food. Michael in FTW could chime in maybe. I would think it would take at least one day to feel the effects of food contamination.
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Old 05-06-2007, 08:36 PM   #4
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It sounds like a case of food poisoning, not a severe allergic reaction - all though you didn't mention her symptoms. If it had been an allergic reaction you would have been on your way to the hospital ER instead of having the time to call up the sub shop asking for ingredients.

Food poisoning doesn't always take a lot of time ... you can become ill in 30 minutes or so. Children can exhibit symptoms in much less time than an adult with a healthy immune system.

I would call your local health department first thing in the morning and report it ... they can advise you more about the food laws in your community and what you should do as a follow-up.

I'va laso learned that when calling up a restaurant where you have gotten sick - ALWAYS ask to speak to the manager, and explain the situation to them. They are more likely to be able to help you than some other employee who just happened to answer the phone.
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Old 05-06-2007, 09:32 PM   #5
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Yes, food poisoning can happen fairly soon after eating something tainted - I had it in probably a bit under 30 minutes one time - more in the realm of like 20 minutes.

I would be fuming right now! Everybody gave you good advice. Let us know what happens.

I hope your daughter feels better soon!
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Old 05-07-2007, 06:51 PM   #6
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What you can do is get them to tell you if it doesn't contain something, so you can check for nuts, or gluten, or dairy products.

If your daughter is diagnosed with some sort of allergy, it is possible that the health department can get an ingredient list from the reasturant.
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Old 05-08-2007, 01:08 AM   #7
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Regarding timing of food poisoning I go by the rule of thumb that if your vomiting its a reaction to get it up and out ASAP and food can hit the stomach 20/30 minutes after eatng. Past that though the quickest way is down and that can take longer.

I hope your daughter is alright now and that you find out what caused the reaction.
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Old 05-08-2007, 11:47 PM   #8
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Zesty mayo is just horsey sauce.

The overwhelming majority of "food poisoning" is cross contamination from poor hand washing skills after using the bathroom, both on the part of service employees and customers. I work in a restaurant and perhaps one in a hundred customers will go to the washroom before eating. Food can make you sick but usually it's the poopy things not getting washed off.

I know we always want to blame the local restaurant's food but shigellosis, the toxic condition produced in the intestines by ecoli bacteria(the most common form of legit food poisoning) takes 12-24 hours to manifest symptoms. An active imagination can produce symptoms immediatly. Were there lots of people reported in the news getting sick from the restaurant in question? That's a good indication of it coming from the restaurant. I'd still guess it's people, though, either an employee or your daughter not washing their hands.

Quick tip; when washing your hands be sure to turn off the water with a paper towel and open the door with an other paper towel or you'll just cross contaminate yourself again.
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Old 05-09-2007, 02:17 PM   #9
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I think that they have to disclose the ingredients! Ask for a manager, or since it is a chain then try getting a hold of the head office!
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Old 05-09-2007, 02:49 PM   #10
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I think they have to tell ya...if you are reacting allergic it's their fault if they were not willing to tell you before. And depends on the allergic reaction it can be very dangerous...especially if ti's a kid.
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Old 05-09-2007, 07:02 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Verenamunch
I think they have to tell ya...if you are reacting allergic it's their fault if they were not willing to tell you before. And depends on the allergic reaction it can be very dangerous...especially if ti's a kid.
Personally I don't think people should eat out where they know life threatening allergens are served. If I were allergic to shellfish I wouldn't go there assuming the burger is untainted, but then I'm big on personal responsibility.

I've had people try to figure out the "secret ingrediant" in my tuna salad (it's soy sauce) and claim food alergies. I ask what are their food alergies. "Nope, none-a that in the tuna." is almost always my responce.The health inspector knows and the sodium from the soy sauce is figured into the nutrition info. Food alergies are one thing but if people wanna find out what an ingredient is just because they don't like being told "no, it's a secret" they can develop a taste pallate. But I doubt they will.
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Old 05-30-2007, 06:22 PM   #12
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If one of my little ones got sick from a restruant I would call the health department. So they could check out the place and make sure its not a cleanilness issue. I feel for you. I hate it when my kids get sick. Oh and I think that if someone wants to sell food to the public they should make the ingredients public knowlege. It's totally different it your have a personal recipe you don't want to share.
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Old 05-30-2007, 07:40 PM   #13
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For all the misinformed, here it is:

Restaurants do NOT have to tell you the ingredients in a certain dish, especially if you as an individual are claiming food poisoning. Sometimes, disclosing recipe and ingredient information can be taken and misconstrued as admission of guilt. If you want to file a formal food poisoning complaint you need to take two steps: First, see a doctor ASAP (immediately after feeling any symptoms and suspecting food poisoning, not two days later) and the doctor must diagnose you with having food poisoning symptoms. Second, contact your local Department of Health to log a formal complaint and to inquire about the proper procedures in seeking compensation or legal action towards the restaurant. If a DOH inspector is dispatched to the restaurant, the restaurant will then disclose to the inspector the ingredients in any dish that the person who is claiming the food poisoning ate.

Restaurants need to be extra careful these days, especially when you have morons who spill hot coffee and burn themselves while driving with the aforementioned coffee between their legs, then suing the restaurant AND winning. Then you have morons who are allergic to certain foods and don't inform the restaurant until after they've received or eaten the dish. If you're allergic to something, it is YOUR responsibility to inform the restaurant BEFORE you order your food.
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Old 05-31-2007, 10:04 AM   #14
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There generally aren't laws that require restaurants to disclose a list of ingredients but they would be stupid not to in a legitimate case involving a child and illness.

I generally agree with what ironchef said. Make sure food poisoning has occured and then take action.

But I can't understand how disclosing ingredients could be "an admission of guilt." It could be providing evidence against yourself if, for example, you had asked about whether a certain thing (eg, peanuts) was in something and they said no and then told you the ingredients and it was in fact in it. But that's not an admission of guilt.

Side note: in Massachusetts there have been efforts to pass a law that requires servers in restaurants to know what's in the dishes they serve so they can accurately answer questions about them. Stems from many cases involving allergic reactions. A member of the Brown squash team died on the spot a few years ago when she ate chili at a restaurant. She disclosed that she had a peanut allergy and was told that there were no peanuts in the chili when in fact it was thickened with peanut butter. The restaurant association is fighting this proposal very hard. But Ming Tsi and his wife testify in favor of it every time, as they have a child with severe food allergies. If you've ever been to Blue Ginger you might have seen a huge 3 ring binder in the kitchen that lists every ingredient in everything they serve.
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Old 05-31-2007, 10:19 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vanwingen
Does anyone know if there is a US law (individual state law?) that requires a restaurant to tell me what ingredients are in the food that they are serving me?

My daughter had a tuna sald sub today from a popular (newer) sub chain. They claim it's made with a "zesty tuna sauce"....She got sick. It was all she ate.
I called the store and nicely asked what the ingredients were in this tuna salad as she was having some type of reaction. The guy on the other end refused to tell me. Said it was a "secret" recipe. I told him I wasn't asking for the recipe, I was asking for the ingredients. I don't care HOW they make it. He still refused.

Can anyone give me some direction?
Sorry that your daughter became ill. Hope she is doing better. You have input re what the law may or may not require re disclosing ingredients, but did not say if your daughter had allergies... so I can't tell if it's an allergic reaction or food gone bad.

Here, there are ratings that must be displayed (i.e. "A" being best) in the restaurant window. I became ill from a Thai take-out with a 'B' rating. I won't do that again.

My experience with what some sub places call tuna 'salad' is a teaspoon of tuna slthered in mayo. With no rating in the window, and not knowing when the establishment was checked out by a health inspector - who knows how long it's been sitting around. I hope to see the rating system applied in all states (if they're not already in place). Again, I hope your daughter is feeling better.
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Old 05-31-2007, 01:30 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by jennyema
But I can't understand how disclosing ingredients could be "an admission of guilt." It could be providing evidence against yourself if, for example, you had asked about whether a certain thing (eg, peanuts) was in something and they said no and then told you the ingredients and it was in fact in it. But that's not an admission of guilt.
I know of cases where a customer who was claiming food poisoning called the restaurant to find out what was in the dish, one of the employees told them, and the guest then demanded to speak to a manager claiming that it MUST have been this or that ingredient(s) that caused the food poisoning. The customer then threatened to go to the DOH and/or the newspapers so the restaurant refunded the guest's money and in one of the cases, even had to give the guest a $100 gift certificate. No matter how crazy the guest was/is, by admitting that the recipe had say, fresh clams, in the guest's mind that automatically became the reason why they supposedly got food poisoning. The guest could then claim that they were served a bad clam and that is what made them sick, and there's really no way for the restaurant at that point to prove that one or more of the clams weren't bad. The cook isn't going to remember if one or more of the clams were bad, especially if it was busy. And even if he did remember, the cook probably wouldn't admit it anyway. This is why I say to NEVER disclose what is in a recipe to a private citizen who is claiming food poisoning. It should only be disclosed to official personnel like a DOH investigator.

As far as allergies, all servers at all restaurants should know what is in a dish, especially ingredients that are known allergies (i.e. nuts, dairy, gluten, shellfish) and if they are not sure, then they should ask the chef or kitchen manager. From my experience, many servers at more upscale and fine dining restaurants are familiar with the menu item ingredients (it's usually up to the chef and manager to make sure the staff knows; I don't know of any server who has taken it upon themself to find out) but as you go lower in the dining scale, you'll find that the server product knowledge will generally, directly reflect that.
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Old 05-31-2007, 02:06 PM   #17
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Ironchef,

Though I see your point, as an attorney, I don't agree with your reasoning.

The customer in your example could have called the Health Department and that's their right. They could have called the newspaper, but no newspaper in the world would print something without some proof that the customer was, in fact, poisoned by something they ate at the restaurant -- otherwise they would be liable for commercial defamation.

The guest in your example doesn't need to call to find out what the ingredients were in what he ate because he already knows enough of them to make such a claim. He ate it after all, so he knows at least some of what it was made out of. He can do all the bad stuff you write about without getting a list of ingredients -- he'll just claim that the beef was bad if he ordered steak. Providing a list of the ingredients, IMO, doesn't admit to anything, legally, and really is meaningless in the context of your troublesome customer.

It may be meaningful in other contexts, however, but not as an admission.
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Old 05-31-2007, 02:28 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by jennyema
Ironchef,

Though I see your point, as an attorney, I don't agree with your reasoning.

The customer in your example could have called the Health Department and that's their right. They could have called the newspaper, but no newspaper in the world would print something without some proof that the customer was, in fact, poisoned by something they ate at the restaurant -- otherwise they would be liable for commercial defamation.

The guest in your example doesn't need to call to find out what the ingredients were in what he ate because he already knows enough of them to make such a claim. He ate it after all, so he knows at least some of what it was made out of. He can do all the bad stuff you write about without getting a list of ingredients -- he'll just claim that the beef was bad if he ordered steak. Providing a list of the ingredients, IMO, doesn't admit to anything, legally, and really is meaningless in the context of your troublesome customer.

It may be meaningful in other contexts, however, but not as an admission.
All that is true, from a legal standpoint. However, the guest made enough threats where the restaurant just didn't want to deal with the guest and to avoid any possibility of bad press. So yes, if this had gone to court, then it wouldn't have held up. But this was handled between just the restaurant and the individual. Regardless of what happened, it is not MY reasoning. It was the guest's reasoning. My statements are based upon the reasoning of others and how they reacted towards the restaurants, and my experiences dealing with different types of guests in restaurants.

Regardless of the law, legal procedure, and what may or many not be submissible in court or in any sort of official investigation, none of that takes into account people's perceptions. When a guest makes a threat towards a restaurant, they're aren't looking at things like an attorney. They just want what they want, beit a refund or whatever. Many times, the person who is handling the matter at the restaurant is not versed in these things either, and just wants to deal with the situation as best as they can, and with as little of a mess as they can. They've got a hundred things to do and in reality, they don't want to deal with it. If the guests wants their $60 tab refunded then many times, so beit. It's not coming out of the manager's pocket and the easiest thing to do is to give the guest back their money and forget it about it. So while legally, the ingredients in a dish may not be construed as an admission of guilt, we're not talking about a trial or mediation. We're talking about a phone call from an irate guest to a restaurant manager who we can only specualte what was going through their mind: Fear? Concern? Apathy? Who knows?
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Old 05-31-2007, 02:50 PM   #19
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I agree it's much easier to pay people like that off most of the time. And hope they never come back.

My point was only that disclosing the list of ingredients to them is of no consequence.

Which was the original question ... sort of.
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Old 06-04-2007, 05:44 AM   #20
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Interesting thread. I learned years ago that I cannot possibly keep up with every individual's allergies who eat at my own home. How a restaurant can becomes mind-boggling.
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