Pizza Hut has apologised to an 11-year-old boy and his family after they were turned away from a restaurant because he was unable to use the hand sanitiser they provided.
Blue Braidley has eczema and suffers a reaction to the product which makes his skin dry, itchy and painful.
When he visited a Pizza Hut branch at the Barbican Leisure Park in Plymouth last Friday, Blue, his parents Penny and Andy, and sister Lilac-Blossom, were asked to sanitise their hands as they entered the restaurant.
Penny, 46, tried to explain that her son, who has additional needs, could not use the sanitiser and asked if he could go to the bathroom to wash his hands with soap and water instead. This request was refused and the family were asked to leave.
‘My son was very taken back at the time and after we left he had a meltdown. He is now anxious whenever we approach a store or restaurant and he sees hand sanitiser,’ Penny told Plymouth Live.
We have to now stop before entering an establishment to reassure him that we will deal with anything that may occur.
‘I do keep some wipes with me in my bag for him also as something is better than nothing. We haven’t had any issues anywhere else and we very shocked and angry to be honest.
’It has given my son a real complex about his skin and sanitiser when he already has more than enough to deal with having a hidden mental disability.’
The Braidleys, from Northampton, were on the third day of a four-day holiday in Plymouth and felt the incident left its mark over the rest of their time in Devon.
Penny said: ‘This was not the first time eating out in Plymouth. We obviously understand everyone’s anxiousness with regards to coronavirus.
‘However like with face masks there are always exceptions, in this case alternatives like washing hands in the toilet or using some kind of wipe that we know is okay for him.
‘We would also like to raise awareness of skin conditions and the use of hand sanitiser and the issues it causes people, such as pain, itching and extra dryness.’
Pizza Hut have apologised to the family and said they hoped the Braidleys could ‘understand,’ given the circumstances.
Restaurants and pubs have stocked up on supplies of hand sanitiser since being allowed to reopen on July 4. It’s seen as a crucial tool in stopping the spread of the virus.
In order to be effective, sanitiser must contain at least 60% alcohol. Experts warn that this dries out the skin and is an irritant, particularly for those who have pre-existing conditions.
A Pizza Hut spokesperson said: ‘Health and safety is of the utmost importance to Pizza Hut restaurants and it is part of our approach to reduce the risk of the transmission of Covid-19 that all customers are asked to use hand sanitiser before entering the dining area.
‘We apologise to the family that visited our Barbican Leisure Park Hut but we hope that they can understand that at this current time we have to have a strict policy in place to protect all of our guests.
‘We will continue to review our policies and practises in-line with government guidance and our own risk assessments but health and safety has to remain our top priority at this time.’