Peter Rabbit film draws controversy for 'allergy bullying' scene

goss 13/02/2018

The producers of a new children's movie have offered an apology after a massive backlash over a scene that saw a character intentionally exposed to food he was allergic to.

Allergy advocacy groups and countless parents around the world shared their disgust upon watching Peter Rabbit, a family film based loosely on Beatrix Potter's iconic kids' book series.

In the offending scene, villain Mr McGregor is pelted with blackberries - a fruit he is known to be allergic to - and momentarily appears to die from anaphylaxis, prompting cheers from the rabbits responsible.

US-based charity Kids With Food Allergies Foundation were among the first to take issue with the scene, calling it "harmful" and accusing the film's producers of trivialising "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 said.

US organisation Food Allergy Research and Education says about one-third of American children with a food allergy are bullied over it, calling it a "growing problem in schools".

petition on requesting an apology from Sony, the production company behind the film, drew more than 10,000 signatures and was ultimately successful.

"Food allergies are a serious issue," Sony began, in a statement released overnight.

"Our film should not have made light of Peter Rabbit's arch-nemesis, 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 apologise."

The criticism the film has received comes after a poor opening weekend that saw it accrue just US$25 million at the box office.