Peter Rabbit movie under scrutiny for allergy bullying

Recently BBC News reported that the film company Sony Pictures apologised for a scene making fun of a food allergy in the new Peter Rabbit film.

The scene depicts a character who suffers from a blackberry allergy being pelted with blackberries by a gang of bunnies. The character Tom McGregor, who has an allergy to the berries, is attacked by Peter and his friends who shower him with the fruit, even shooting one into his mouth – until he is forced to use an EpiPen.

The offending scene is shown in a film adaptation of the Beatrix Potter book Peter Rabbit, which was released in US cinemas this weekend (9 February 2017) and will be released in South African cinemas on 30 March 2018 (see the official trailer below).

Campaigners, Twitter users and the charity Kids with Food Allergies Foundation condemned the movie with hashtags such as #boycotpeterrabbit and this Facebook post:

The Kids with Food Allergies Foundation commented on the post, saying that a serious food allergy should be viewed in the same light as a disability, as an allergy can affect eating and/or breathing, which are two critical prerequisites for life:

In 2008, the American Disabilities Act (ADA) was changed to include more people in the definition of “disabled”. Conditions that only show symptoms at certain times are now included. Asthma and food allergies fit this definition.

The ADA protects people with asthma and allergies even if reactions or attacks happen only when triggered. In section 504 of the ADA, a person with a disability is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that seriously limits one or more major life activities, or who is regarded as having such impairments.

Sony apologises

Sony Pictures commented on 11 February in an official statement, saying that it was wrong for the filmmakers to include the segment, "even in a cartoonish, slapstick way".

"We sincerely regret not being more aware of and sensitive to this issue, and we truly apologise," the statement said.

What is a blackberry allergy?

Although a blackberry allergy is one of the less common food allergies, it can cause a serious reaction including anaphylaxis. This happens when the body produces antibodies to fight the food in question.  

The reaction between the antibodies and the food releases chemicals that cause the allergy symptoms. 

How to help your child cope with a food allergy

It might be difficult to explain to your child why they may get sick from a certain food, but there are ways to make coping with it easier.

  • Cook at home and familiarise your child with the ingredients they are allowed to eat.
  • Teach them how to read food labels and how to identify a specific allergen in food products.
  • Tell them that they have nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Inform their teachers and parents of school friends about their allergies.
  • Find accommodating restaurants, party venues or holiday accommodation. Call ahead to hear what they can do to prepare for your child’s special food needs.
  • Always pack a stash of safe snacks for your kid when they go on school trips or sleepovers.
  • Educate your child as much as you can about the allergy so that they have the ability to explain it to school friends.
  • Take your children seriously when they complain about someone bullying them. Address the issue with the teachers.

Have you or your child ever been excluded or teased about a food allergy or medical condition? Will you boycott the Peter Rabbit movie after reading about this scene? Email marelize.wilke@24.com.

Image credit: iStock