Hot Docs: P.F. Chang’s sued by Muslims over pork in “Hong Kong Beef”

July 7, 2011

PF Harangues 2Does “beef” really mean “pork”?

According to a new complaint, it does at P.F. Chang’s China Bistro.

The lawsuit claims that P.F. Chang’s served the family its “Hong Kong Beef” dish with prior assurances that it contained no traces of pork, when, in fact, it did.

Under many circumstances, this would be a nearly harmless mistake.

That isn’t the case here, since the plaintiffs, Eric Star, and his wife and son, are devout Muslims.

Islam prohibits the consumption of pork under the belief that swine, the animal from which pork comes, is a filthy animal, both in its behavior and what it eats.

In addition, devout Muslims, such as the plaintiffs, believe that swine and its meat are magnets of morbid bacteria, literally and figuratively, that cannot be removed by any means of purification.

Before Star made the order for the Hong Kong Beef over the phone, he asked if the dish contained pork, and stated it was important that no pork touch any of their food, citing his religious and medical (his son is allergic to it) reasons.

Hot Doc: Star v. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight – National Litigation

The P.F. Chang’s employee who took their order laughed, and according to the complaint, began to mock Star and his religious beliefs, and stated that it was unreasonable to try to ensure there was no pork in the meal since he didn’t order pork.

Once they got the food home and started consuming it, they thought the meat didn’t taste like beef, and the coloring was lighter than beef should be.

Star’s son also had an allergic reaction to the meat, at which point Star called P.F. Chang’s to confirm that there was no pork in the dish.

The employee who answered the phone again assured Star that there was no pork in the dish, and Star asked to speak to a manager.

The manager told Star that P.F. Chang’s “Hong Kong Beef” did, in fact, contain pork.

At the manager’s suggestion, Star brought the dish back to the restaurant, where the manager looked at it with another manager, and confirmed that the meat was indeed pork.

The revelation caused massive distress to the family.

Star’s wife, an epileptic, started having seizures when she found out, and has experienced an increase in these seizures since the incident, which caused her to lose her job.  She was also subsequently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Because of his wife’s increased medical needs and his own emotional distress, Star lost his job.

In addition to the emotional and medical problems caused by the incident, the family has been ostracized from participation in the Muslim community.

While there are some inconsistencies in the complaint (such as how Star and his wife knew of their son’s pork allergy if they had never before consumed it), they are beside the point.

The incident reflects a lack of awareness of Islamic faith and traditions in the general American populace.

Whether or not the serving the pork by the restaurant was intentional, as the complaint claims it was, the restaurant is liable on at least some of the nine legal theories presented in the complaint.

Fortunately for P.F. Chang’s, another such incident may be easily avoidable by simply increasing awareness of Muslim culture in its employees.