Northeast Ohio parents upset over depiction of food allergies in new 'Peter Rabbit' movie

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Parents of kids with food allergies are upset about the depiction of a character with an allergy to blackberries in the new "Peter Rabbit" movie.

The movie, released by Sony Pictures over the weekend, is about a group of rabbits who live near a garden owned by Mr. McGregor. The rabbits and McGregor are always at odds, with the rabbits sneaking into his garden, and McGregor always fighting to keep them out.

The movie is a new twist on a classic tale by Beatrix Potter.

In this version, Mr. McGregor is allergic to blackberries. In one scene, the rabbits begin pelting him with vegetables, including the berries. McGregor must inject himself with an EpiPen to counteract an allergic reaction.

This is the part that's upset so many parents whose children have food allergies.

"I feel that depicting a scene like this, it crosses the line of humor to exploiting a medical condition that is life-threatening and could be emotionally scarring for a child to watch," said Lindsey Geiss, a mother of a child with food allergies.

She says she understands the movie is meant to be funny, but argues that it missed the mark.

"I absolutely think this is food allergy bullying. There should be zero tolerance for any kind of bullying, and with food allergies, lives are at risk," said Geiss.

Geiss points to data that shows one in 13 school-age children have food allergies, and many report being bullied as a result of that. She also says the movie inaccurately depicts what happens in an allergic reaction situation, as the character McGregor in the movie is instantly cured by his EpiPen.

In a real-life situation, she says, he would likely have to go to the hospital for additional treatment, and many people still die from their allergic reactions, in spite of their EpiPen.

In response to the criticism, Sony Pictures and the filmmakers put out a statement, saying they regret putting the scene in the movie.

"Our film should not have made light of Peter Rabbit's archnemesis, Mr. McGregor, being allergic to blackberries, even in a cartoonish, slapstick way. We sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue, and we truly apologize."

Lindsey Geiss says she appreciates the apology, but hopes steps will be taken now to inform and educate the public about the dangers of food allergies. Several advocacy organizations will teach classes if you're interested in signing up for your school, group, or camp.

For more information, you can find the Northeast Ohio Food Allergy Network, or NEOFAN, here.

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