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Allergic youth ill after Swedish embassy lunch

David Landes · 30 Jul 2009, 07:59

Published: 30 Jul 2009 07:59 GMT+02:00

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The meal had been arranged for around 60 participants from across Europe attending a youth summer camp in Germany for sufferers of a type of lactose and gluten intolerance known as celiac disease.

“A few hours after the luncheon people began throwing up,” 18-year-old Henrik Tornberg, one of three Swedes who attended the meal, told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

“Everyone thought it was strange; we had filled out forms requesting gluten-free food.”

But the banquet, which had been organized by the Swedish Celiac Youth Society (SCUF), featured pasta made from spelt, a grain related to common wheat which contains moderate amounts of gluten.

While Swedish press reports indicated that around ten young people became ill following the lunch, a statement from SCUF claimed that all 60 attendees became sick.

One girl from Spain even began throwing up blood and was forced to seek care at a nearby hospital.

The menu oversight caused the head of SCUF, Rosita Persson, to demand an apology from the embassy.

“We see this as incredible insulting, for all of the young people who are suffering, our organization, and the Swedish celiac researchers who have such a good reputation in Europe,” Persson said in a statement.

Story continues below…

While Sweden’s ambassador in Berlin, Ruth Jacoby, said she regretted the incident, she added that the embassy wasn’t to blame.

“The canteen is operated by a private company and is open for the general public, but I had been convinced that they could handle food allergies,” Jacoby to Sveriges Television (SVT).

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

09:56 July 30, 2009 by byke
While Sweden's ambassador in Berlin, Ruth Jacoby, said she regretted the incident, she added that the embassy wasn't to blame.

"The canteen is operated by a private company and is open for the general public, but I had been convinced that they could handle food allergies," Jacoby to Sveriges Television (SVT).

Yet Again,

Why is it that people who are in charge can not take responsibility for their actions? The buck stops here, Jacoby was put in charge of arranging the right food. If she contracted a catering company and they didnt deliver she is just as responsible.
10:25 July 30, 2009 by Puffin
So you don't think that the caterering company that provides all food to the embassy have any blame over the incident even though they were the professionals - I find that a very strange opinion.

The embassy ordered gluten free food from a professional catering company and didn't get it - so how is the person who ordered the gluten free meals to blame? Or did you expect and Ambassador to personally put an apron on and cook dinner herself? lol

If you order a gluten free meal in a restaurant and they give you food with gluten in and your sick - does this mean that you are to blame for ordering it?

However I do find the catering company's choice to serve pasta at such an event very strange as most types of pasta are fraught with difficulty for those on a gluten free diet - the best kind that is rice based is very gloopy and sticky and probably difficult to serve at a mass catering event - I''m not quite sure why they did not stick to a more "Swedish" menu of meat/fish with potatoes
11:09 July 30, 2009 by peropaco
At least if she wore an apron she would have earned an honest day work. We all know how hard these ambassadors/diplomats (AKA Leeches) work....
11:12 July 30, 2009 by byke
@ puffin,

I am afraid I am unable to read your full text as I cannot clink on the link to read the full text.

Yes the catering company share some responsibility, however I am tired of people passing the buck and not taking responsibility for their actions (aka the swedish teflon effect).

Fact : The Swedish embassy put on a lunch, they were responsible to oversee the operation. If anything goes wrong they are the people who were in charge to oversee and make sure all the needs were put into place. If they outsourced anything, thats there responsibility.

Just because you outsource something doesn't mean you can avoid any blame.
11:34 July 30, 2009 by flipcanuckbrit
I think the Embassy, seeing as they were the ones hosting, should have taken more care with respect to the menu. Someone should have taken note exactly what was in each dish and researched potential side affects given the guests were known to have allergies. Pasta could have been completely avoided.

I think they have equal blame really. The firm should have known not to offer these items as part of the meal and the Embassy should have followed it up.
12:12 July 30, 2009 by Puffin
According to the article all the catering in the Exbassy is provided by this company who runs the Embassy kitchens and cafeteria for staff meals - it wasn't a company that they got in specially for this dinner.

Also the Swedish press are reporting that the Ambassador herself is allergic to gluten - so the catering company should be well versed in the needs of gluten allergy - and given that the company provided gluten free food on a daily basis within the embassy - why would she assume that they couldn't for this dinner?
12:29 July 30, 2009 by byke
The levels of intolerance to gluten are different based on per basis of each person. While many people may be sensitive to gluten, that is not the same level as a collective group who have serious issues.

Regardless if this is a department, a sub sourced group, A mates friend etc .... The Embassy were in charge for arranging this meal, and the failure lies with Ruth Jacoby for not ensuring or following up to make sure the menu meets with the needs of the children.
13:16 July 30, 2009 by bubbagump
The international community would never let the Ambassador of an American Embassy to simply say it wasn't their fault, but was the fault of the company contracted to run the cafeteria. I can't even imagine how the heads of state for the countries where these children came from would react. These were special needs children who got screwed at an official embassy function.

It would have been much better had Ruth Jacoby simply apologized and then stated what corrective actions were taken. But as you said byke, persons in authority here always have to point out who they think is really to blame. I haven't seen this much "saving face" since I lived in Korea.
16:11 July 30, 2009 by Puffin
I don't quite understand what you mean by "children"???? All the participants were adults aged 18-30.

According to the Swedish coeliac association's own website the Ambassador did apologise and has contacted everyone taken ill personally to apologise
19:34 July 30, 2009 by I Love it when ...
thats not embarrassing
03:22 July 31, 2009 by jesjensen
There has been a long standing issue with spelt and celiacs. Some people CAN tolerate spelt versus wheat in small amounts, it's advertised even as being acceptable for celiacs, here in the states. Being a celiac myself, but having a higher thresh hold than many when glutened, I've had this pushed on me as a wheat alternative. I can see how it can happen. There's still no excuse for it though, considering the alternatives available now, compared to 15 years ago when I started going gluten free.
17:25 July 31, 2009 by celiac40
Spelt has never been acceptable or safe for celiacs. Spelt is a member of the genus Triticum L. (common name wheat). According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the genus wheat contains 19 species, including common wheat, durum wheat, and spelt. These species are all closely related and none of them should be eaten by anyone who can not eat gluten.

In the US, there is not a single national celiac support organization, nor the American Dietetic Association, nor the National Institute of Health nor the FDA that would ever place Spelt as being safe or tolerated by someone with celiac disease.
19:40 July 31, 2009 by grantike
people with food allergies should afford food at publice places.there nothing embarasssing in this at all.

its just like having disability you will always avaoid that you cannot do and dnt say you failed for separate food.anyways sorry and get well soon
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