NEW YORK • In one scene in Sony Pictures' adaptation of Beatrix Potter's mischievous Peter Rabbit, he and his bunny friends gang up on their nemesis, Mr McGregor, by pelting him with blackberries, even though he is allergic to them.
When one berry lands in his mouth, he begins to choke.
The scene prompted a backlash from allergy advocacy groups and parents, saying it mocked an attack that in real life could have proved fatal. The segment led to a hashtag - #boycottpeterrabbit.
On Sunday, Sony issued an apology, saying food allergies are a serious issue and that the film "should not have made light" of a character being allergic to blackberries, "even in a cartoonish, slapstick way".
The movie, which debuted over the weekend, came in second at the box office, earning US$25 million (S$33 million). Reviews have been mixed, with many saying it was a far cry from Potter's gentler vision.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America said this is not the first time Sony has "used food allergies as a punchline in the plot of a kids' movie". It cited examples in The Smurfs (2011) and Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs (2009).
It also pointed out real-life accounts of people using food to bully children with allergies. On Dec 13, a 14-year-old was accused of rubbing pineapple on her hand and high-fiving a girl allergic to the fruit. The victim, also 14, was treated in hospital.
In July, a 13-year-old London boy with a dairy allergy died after a piece of cheese was allegedly forced on him during a school break.