Sony Pictures issued an apology Monday in response to complaints about a scene in the new film “Peter Rabbit” that shows the title character’s nemesis suffering an allergic reaction when he is bombarded with blackberries.

The scene generated complaints over the weekend, including some social- media calls for a boycott of the film and letters to the film studio from groups including the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

The scene shows Peter Rabbit and his friends attacking Mr. McGregor with blackberries, to which he is allergic. Critics said the scene jokingly portrays a serious health threat.

“The segment featured the intentional attack of the McGregor character with the food he is allergic to — the implication being that the rabbits wanted to kill or harm McGregor with this method,” Kenneth Mendez, president of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, wrote in a letter to the studio. “The result is that McGregor experienced a severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, and treated himself with his epinephrine injection. Additionally, the segment makes light of the seriousness of food allergies and suggests that food allergies are `made up for attention.”‘

He added, “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.”

An allergy and anaphylaxis charity group, Globalaai, began a petition over the weekend demanding an apology from the studio, saying the scene “mocks the seriousness of allergic disease and is heartbreakingly disrespectful to the families of those that have lost loved ones to anaphylaxis.”

Sony responded with an apology, saying, “Food allergies are a serious issue.”

“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 apologize.”

There was no immediate word on whether the company plans to alter the film.

–City News Service

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