Updated Feb. 12, 2024: Uber Eats heard the food allergy community. The giant food delivery service edited out an insensitive depiction of peanut allergy in its TV commercial, which aired during Super Bowl on Feb. 11. (The edited commercial. can be seen here.)
The turn of events began in the early hours of February 9. Dr. Sung Poblete, CEO of the allergy nonprofit FARE, spoke to a senior Uber Eats executive, explaining why it’s so wrong to make life-threatening food allergies as the butt of a joke. She tells Allergic Living that they had “a great conversation.” The executive let her share the news of the video’s edit, rather than commenting.
In a statement, Poblete says: “FARE would like to thank Uber for listening to our community and making the changes to their Super Bowl ad. After talking with them today, I believe we have a new ally in helping us navigate our journey with our disease.”
Poblete told Allergic Living: “It’s a huge win for the food allergy community.”
After the commercial was first unveiled on the Today Show, FARE approached Allergic Living about its offensive peanut allergy depiction. Our resulting article on the topic went viral, as did FARE’s own posts. This snowballed into a massive outpouring in social media, with affecting comments from thousands of allergy advocates and individuals.
A common concern was that the Uber Eats commercial would air during Super Bowl. That meant a negative food allergy depiction would have been seen by almost 200 million viewers.
In her statement, Poblete said: “I want to thank you, our community, for having our voices heard as we change the way life-threatening food allergies are perceived.”
She added in our interview that when the food allergy community speaks with one voice, “we are a force that is undeniable.”
Uber Eats and Collaboration
The commercial, called “Don’t Forget Uber Eats,” focuses on the idea of “forgetting one thing to remember something else.” The peanut butter part appeared amid longer humorous interactions showing people forgetting something. For example, Jennifer Aniston fails to recognize her “Friends” co-star David Schwimmer. From their home, David and Victoria Beckham can’t recall that she was a Spice Girl.
The peanut clip showed a man in the midst of a serious reaction eating peanut butter from a jar while reading the label. The man had one eye swollen shut, a swollen face and hives. He said: “There’s peanuts in peanut butter?” Followed by: “Oh, it’s the primary ingredient.”
As food allergies are often made the butt of entertainment jokes, many in the allergy community demanded the ad be edited. From her conversation, Poblete thinks Uber Eats now understands the Super Bowl ad depiction “was totally inappropriate.”
Poblete says that key to the approach to Uber Eats was FARE’s willingness to work with the multi-billion-dollar company, rather than to attack. “I want to find ways that we can continue our work together. I’m happy to continue to educate executives at Uber and find ways that we can collaborate,” she said. “We build bridges, not burn them.”
Of the entertainment industry, Poblete adds: “I hope this sends a message to Hollywood that food allergies will no longer be the butt of jokes.”
Allergies ‘No Laughing Matter’
The furore over the scene got news coverage worldwide, from the Today Show to NBC News, Yahoo, Forbes, the BBC and more.
Among those commenting online to Uber Eats was advocate Thomas Silvera of the Elijah-Alavi Foundation. Silvera, whose young son died of anaphylaxis, wrote: “It’s time for influential platforms to lead by example, promoting awareness and empathy to ensure that the tragedy that struck my family does not become a footnote in a commercial narrative.”
In a video, Eleanor Garrow-Holding of the nonprofit FAACT noted it was time for companies to “do better” on this disease. “All food allergies and anaphylaxis are serious and no laughing matter.”
Food Allergy Canada wrote a letter urging Uber Eats to avoid such punchlines. “As a dominant player in the foodservice sector, you have an opportunity to take a significant leadership role to support consumers with food allergy,” it said.
With the news that Uber Eats is editing out the offending scene, Poblete says: “It’s a big win. Our voices were finally heard.”