The new Peter Rabbit film is facing protests over a scene which features a character deliberately exposed to food allergens, which are treated as a joke. "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," said the Kids With Food Allergies Foundation, one of several charities to express concern.
In the scene, Mr McGregor's son Tom is allergic to blackberries. Peter and his friends, having discovered this, pelt him with the fruit, with one of them going in his mouth and causing him to suffer from anaphylactic shock. Peter then says that food allergies are just made up to get sympathy and attention, and jokes to camera that he is sure he will get letters about this.
Around two million people in the UK have food allergies, with ten dying as a result of them each year. Food doesn't need to be swallowed to cause a reaction but can often present a danger as soon as it touches the lips.
"This is a socially irresponsible depiction in a movie aimed at children and based on an iconic and classic children’s story. To spread a message that condones such victimising and dangerous behaviour amongst children is grossly offensive," said Australian charity Globalaai, which works worldwide to raise awareness of the risks presented by allergies. It has launched a petition now signed by over 7,000 people and is calling on Sony to respond.
Peter Rabbit is due to be released in the UK on 16 March. It has been given a PG certificate by the BBFC.
Update: shortly after this story was published, Sony issued a statement apologising and saying that they "sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue."