Letter to the Makers of the Peter Rabbit Movie: Jokes About Food Allergies Can Put People in Danger


Over the past 24 hours, we have heard from many in our community about their reactions to the food allergy scene in the new Peter Rabbit movie. There is a scene in the movie that shows the rabbits intentionally attacking a human with his food allergen to provoke an allergic reaction. 

We issued a heads-up alert on Facebook for parents so they could have an opportunity to discuss food allergy bullying and "jokes" with their child before seeing the movie. Our post immediately went viral:

As an organization that has zero tolerance for food allergy bullying, we are addressing this issue with the makers of the film: Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony Pictures Animation, Columbia Pictures and Animal Logic. 

February 10, 2018

Tony Vinciquerra
Chairman and CEO
Sony Pictures Entertainment
10202 West Washington Boulevard
Culver City, California 90232

Robert Lawson
Executive Vice President & Chief Communications Officer
Sony Pictures Entertainment
10202 West Washington Boulevard
Culver City, California 90232

Sanford Panitch
Columbia Pictures
10202 West Washington Boulevard
Capra Building Suite 2500
Culver City, CA 90232

Kristine Belson
Sony Pictures Animation
9050 W. Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

Zareh Nalbandian
Co-Founder, CEO and Producer
Animal Logic
Fox Studios Australia
38 Driver Avenue
Building 54
Moore Park NSW 2021

Dear Mr. Vinciquerra, Mr. Lawson, Mr. Panitch, Mr. Nalbandian and Ms. Belson:

On behalf of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) and the more than 15 million Americans living with food allergies, I am writing with some concerns about a food allergy segment included in the “Peter Rabbit” movie. The segment featured the intentional attack of the McGregor character with the food he is allergic to – the implication being that the rabbits wanted to kill or harm McGregor with this method. The result is that McGregor experienced a severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, and treated himself with his epinephrine injection. Additionally, the segment makes light of the seriousness of food allergies and suggests that food allergies are “made up for attention.”

This isn’t the first time that Sony Pictures Animation has used food allergies as a punchline in the plot of a kids’ movie. Sony has misrepresented food allergies in “The Smurfs” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” as well.

AAFA (www.aafa.org and www.kidswithfoodallergies.org), a not-for-profit organization founded in 1953, is the leading patient organization for people with asthma and allergies, and the oldest asthma and allergy patient group in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 million Americans have allergies.i There is no cure for food allergies. Anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic reaction. Symptoms include flush; tingling of the palms of the hands, soles of the feet or lips; light-headedness, and chest-tightness. If not treated immediately, these can progress into seizures, cardiac arrhythmia, shock and respiratory distress. Anaphylaxis can result in death.

Living with food allergy can have negative effects on the quality of life of patients and their families because they need to remain vigilant about accidental exposures.ii The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) recently examined critical issues related to food allergy, including the prevalence and severity of food allergy and its impact on affected individuals, families, and communities; and current understanding of food allergy as a disease, and in diagnostics, treatments, prevention, and public policy.iii

During an allergic reaction, patients require the life-saving drug epinephrine and must go to the nearest hospital for follow-up treatment. The very real fear and anxiety that people experience during an allergic reaction (often referred to as an impending sense of doom) is a serious matter. Making light of this condition hurts our members because it encourages the public not to take the risk of allergic reactions seriously, and this cavalier attitude may make them act in ways that could put an allergic person in danger.

It is extremely important that people with a food allergy avoid the food to which they are allergic, as contact with their allergen can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction. People with a severe food allergy face challenges every day. Recently, there have been distressing accounts of children using food to bully and assault children with food allergies, and some cases have resulted in death for the child with food allergies and criminal charges for the attackers.iv, v

The federal civil rights law, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), gives people with disabilities the right to ask for changes where policies, practices or conditions leave you out or put you at a disadvantage. In 2008, the ADA changed to include more people in the definition of “disabled”. Conditions like food allergies that only show symptoms at certain times are now included. The ADA protects people with food allergies even if allergic reactions happen only when triggered.

We would welcome the opportunity to educate your company and the cast of the movie about the realities of food allergy so that they and your viewing audience can better understand and recognize the gravity of the disease. We would like to work together to promote positive attitudes and safe environments for those with disabilities such as food allergies. We encourage you to examine your portrayal of bullying in your films geared toward a young audience. We strongly urge you to refrain from the type of programming that mocks food allergies in the future.

We are available to discuss further. Please feel free to contact me  or Melanie Carver, AAFA’s Vice President of Community Health and Services, at media@aafa.org.


Kenneth Mendez
President and CEO
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

i Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Allergies. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/healthcommu.../tips/allergies.html Published 2011. Accessed May 11, 2016.
ii National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Why Food Allergy Is a Priority for NIAID. Available at https://www.niaid.nih.gov/dise...lergy-priority-niaid Published April 19, 2016. Accessed February 10, 2018.
iii The National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine. Food Allergies: Global Burden, Causes, Treatment, Prevention and Public Policy. Available at http://www.nationalacademies.o...n/FoodAllergies.aspx Published November 30. 2016. Accessed February 10, 2018.
iv Independent. Teenager dies from allergic reaction ‘after cheese prank’.  Available at http://www.independent.co.uk/n...c-of-e-a7836896.html Published July 12, 2017. Accessed February 10, 2018.
v The Washington Post. Three teens charged with knowingly exposing allergic classmate to pineapple. She was hospitalized. Available at https://www.washingtonpost.com...m_term=.da2b1c6854c7 Published January 27, 2018. Accessed February 10, 2018. 

About AAFA
Founded in 1953 and celebrating 65 years of service, AAFA is the oldest and largest non-profit patient organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with asthma, allergies and related conditions through research, education, advocacy and support. AAFA provides practical information and community-based services through its digital communities and national network of local chapters and educational support groups. Through its Kids With Food Allergies (KFA) division, AAFA offers the most extensive online support community for families raising children with food allergies at community.kidswithfoodallergies.org. For more information about AAFA, visit aafa.org.

We also have a tool that makes it easy for you to sign on to our letter and send an email message to the executives at Sony Pictures. With just a few clicks, you can join us in asking Sony Pictures to refrain from using food allergies as punchlines and to help us promote positive attitudes and safe environments for kids with food allergies:

AAFA and its food allergy division (Kids With Food Allergies) are dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with asthma and allergic diseases through support, education, advocacy and research. We work to raise awareness and impact policy changes to help improve and save lives. We have an ongoing anti-bullying educational campaign and recently partnered with other allergy organizations to combat the negative effects of bullying.

To support our work, please consider giving a donation.

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Thank you for making it easy for us to "write" to Sony Pictures. How does this stupid scene make it through the creative/editing processes at Sony?! Don't they test movies with a test audience? The biggest issue I have with this scene is that it's the "hero" (i.e., the one the kids are rooting for to "win") that comes up with the sadistic idea. Other movies have accidental food allergy scenes which are much more acceptable. But to have the hero purposely try to remove the human via an anaphylactic food allergy?! Unbelievable and sad.

Kids With Food Allergies
A Division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
4259 W Swamp Rd, Suite 408, Doylestown, PA 18902
Phone: 215.230.5394 | Fax: 215.340.7674