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Teen dies after eating pancakes at Minnesota cafe

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BEMIDJI, Minn — A Minnesota family is suing after their teenage son died after eating pancakes at a local restaurant.

WCCO reports 16-year-old Scott Johnson had a severe milk allergy since birth.

The family went to their local café, Minnesota Nice Café in Bemidji, for breakfast last June. The lawsuit states Scott’s mother Cindy asked the server if the restaurant’s gluten-free pancakes were also dairy free. The server checked with the cook and said the pancakes were dairy free. Cindy also told the server the grill would have to be cleaned before her son’s pancakes were made.

After eating two of the pancakes, WCCO reports Scott told his mother, “We have to go now.”

Scott had forgotten his EpiPen and nebulizer – tools he had previously used to open his lungs and aid him in an allergic reaction.

“When the Johnsons got home, it became clear they weren’t working. Cindy called 911,” WCCO reports.

Scott eventually had to be airlifted to Fargo where doctors said Scott had suffered such a severe anaphylactic reaction, his heart had failed.

Johnson died three days later.

Because of the lawsuit, Minnesota Nice Cafe told WCCO they couldn’t comment.

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9 comments

  • Cindy

    I am so sorry for this families loss, but why would you take a risk like this (especially with your child) if you’re that highly allergic to something? Better to just eat at home. And they expected them to clean the grill?

  • Gene

    i blame the parents… I am sorry for your loss BUT YOU ARE A LAZY LOUSY STUPID MOTHER, if your son wants pancakes then you make hem yourself, and how in the hell you forgot his EpiPen ??
    MOM : ” YOU ARE AN IDIOT”

  • cindy

    the family took him out to a restaurant, demanded the grill be completely cleaned b/c the smallest bits of dairy could kill him (really? how can a cook be certain of the cleanliness of the grill and what if it was a busy restaurant. Also, they forgot his Epi pen and nebulizer despite his severe allergy and then took him HOME instead of a hospital. Sorry for your loss but I also hope you lose the lawsuit.

  • Kris

    A friend of mine has a severe allergy to sea food and she NEVER eats at restaurants. Not even pancake houses? Because her health is her responsibility. Not other peoples. It’s a terrible tragedy, but I do not blame the eatery.

  • Nikki

    This story has not been reported here in Minnesota at all. I find that very interesting. I have heard nothing on any of the news channels about this. I am very sorry for this family’s loss, but if their son forgot his Epi-pen, it was their responsibility to go and get it before they took such a risk at a restaurant like this. The restaurant did nothing wrong. I’m sure they did all they could to prepare his breakfast correctly, but they are not dietitians. The family is responsible for making sure their son is safe, not the restaurant. If their son was so very allergic, they should never go anywhere without that Epi-pen, and if they realize they don’t have it, they needed to go back and get it or leave the restaurant.

  • Liseetsa Mann

    So many things went wrong here. When my son was diagnosed with peanut anaphylaxis in 2009, we stopped going to restaurants. It was not worth the risk. Labels lie. Workers do not know the difference between a food sensitivity, picky eater, sudden onset of anaphylaxis– ana-what? “Oh, I’m allergic to cats.” Usually not the same thing folks.

    Someone should have called 911 from the restaurant. Time is critical. They might seem mostly fine one second, but instantaneously take a turn to the point of no return. We have four epipens and a system for check and recheck before entering any place with food– or not– because invisible traces are everywhere. We were told not to walk to our mailbox with our epipens. In this case, wouldn’t it be “professionally responsible” for restaurants to have epipens on hand just in case?

    What is also disturbing to me personally is that we do have a highly successful treatment for life-threatening food allergies now– OIT (oral-immunotherapy)– where board-certified allergists introduce microscopic amounts of the allergen to the patients, increasing the amounts over time to build a tolerance. And with only a handful of specialized allergists in the world, Dr. Wexler, M.D. is right there in Minnesota. Insult to their unbearable injury if they would have known?

    My son has been in private practice since 2010. We temporarily moved to NC for treatment. He reached an 8 peanut/day tolerance within a year and has not had one reaction since the beginning of treatment. With an 85-1005 success rate, only uncontrolled asthma and EoE, a disease of the esophagus, rules them out of participation. Asthma complicates food allergy and progress in OIT sometimes but as one doctor puts it, “The more severe the allergy, the greater the need for treatment.” We have several support groups on facebook for interested families at Peanut Anaphylaxis Cure and OIT 101 to name a few.

    Even parents who are medical doctors have made critical mistakes leading to the loss of their children. How will we ever educate the rest of the population in order to keep food allergic children and adults safe? This is a complete unnecessary loss of life. I’ll be even more obnoxiously obsessed with my children a little more today– loving them like there might not be a tomorrow for any of us.

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