A Deschutes County man is suing a Bend-based catering company after his 4-year-old son suffered a severe allergic reaction to wheat from eating a meal labeled gluten-free.

The child’s father, Josh Cantrell, filed suit Monday in Deschutes County Circuit Court alleging negligence and other claims on the part of Tate & Tate Catering.

Tate & Tate has yet to be served the suit, which seeks $56,511.07.

The lawsuit alleges that on Sept. 23, the child and his mother, Kory Cantrell, purchased the tandoori chicken meal from Tate & Tate’s Redmond location. The meal was labeled “gluten-free.”

Kory Cantrell additionally told the employee working the register her son was extremely allergic to wheat and peanuts, according to the complaint.

The employee “affirmed” the meal was peanut- and gluten-free, the complaint states.

Shortly after being served the chicken dinner, the boy exhibited symptoms consistent with anaphylactic allergic reaction, including swelling and discoloration of his lips, according to the suit. He was taken to St. Charles Redmond’s emergency department, and upon arrival the boy had a rapid heart rate and was covered in hives. He was given an epinephrine shot, then, when his symptoms didn’t improve, a second shot. He was transferred by ambulance to St. Charles Bend. The boy, now 5, was released after treatment.

Cantrell is being represented by Bend attorney Nathan Steele.

He calculated medical expenses at $6,511.07, and noneconomic damages at $50,000.

The lawsuit comes 17 months after Tate & Tate made the news for receiving in a health inspection one of the lowest scores ever recorded by the Deschutes County Department of Health.

Tate & Tate, in business for 18 years, is owned by George and Barb Tate. With Bend and Redmond locations, the company employs between 35 and 40 people at any time, according to George Tate.

Reached Tuesday, Tate said his insurance company is handling the Cantrells’ civil complaint. It will likely provide him with an attorney.

George Tate said the dish sold to the Cantrells did not include gluten in any ingredient, and there are signs around the business warning that the kitchen processes foods that contain nuts, wheat and other allergens.

He said many people prefer gluten-free options for dietary reasons, which is why his business’ policy is to separately prepare all dishes for people with serious allergies.

“We don’t warrant the kitchen as being absolutely free of allergens. We make every effort to make sure people understand that,” he said. “From where she purchased that dish, you can look directly into our bake shop — there’s clouds of flour in the air. I mean, she almost had to move bread out of the way to pay for it.”

He said at the time of the purchase, his employee asked Kory Cantrell if she wanted to speak to the executive chef — George Tate — who was standing feet away. She declined, he said.

“As a parent of a child with a serious allergy, you yourself have a responsibility, I believe, to be absolutely certain,” he said. “In this case, she didn’t even speak to me.”

Steele called Tate’s argument “ridiculous.”

“When you put out a product and it says “gluten-free” on it, then there’s a reasonable expectation it’s going to be gluten-free,” Steele said.

Allergy rates in the U.S. have increased in recent years, according to the American Association of Allergies, Asthma and Immunology. Theories for why include children growing up exposed to fewer germs, increased use of antibiotics, and better hygiene in general.

— Reporter: 541-383-0325, gandrews@bendbulletin.com

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