Candy-Carrying Crisis

A few months ago here at Diabetes Flashpoints, we discussed the case of a man with Type 2 diabetes who was kicked out of a movie theater (with a police escort, no less) for bringing in some strawberries he had bought outside the theater. While that situation had a few troubling aspects — the man was denied a refund for his ticket, and he hadn’t even opened the strawberry container before he was escorted away — the discussion focused on when, if ever, it is appropriate to allow people with medical conditions to bring their own food into establishments where food is sold. Many people (including the theater’s owner, when asked after the incident) hold the view that in this case, the man should have been allowed to bring in the strawberries because none of the food sold in the theater was “diabetes-friendly.” There is no disputing, however, that the strawberries were intended only as a snack, not as any medically necessary treatment.

The latest case of someone with diabetes being kicked out of a movie theater appears to be different in nature, even though the reasons offered by the movie theater were the same. As described in an ABC News article, 16-year-old Ben Weidner was barred from entering a drive-in movie theater in New Jersey for attempting to bring in a backpack containing diabetes supplies, including insulin, an epinephrine pen, a juice box, and candy. Weidner, who has Type 1 diabetes, was told that no outside food or drink was allowed inside, with no exceptions. Unlike the man who brought strawberries into the movie theater, Weidner apparently had no intent to actually drink the juice or eat the candy; they were intended as emergency backup for treating hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). If not treated with food or drink to raise the blood glucose glucose level, hypoglycemia can lead to loss of consciousness — a medical emergency — and even coma or death.


Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of this case is that the drive-in theater’s owner is a pediatrician — and stands by his staff’s decision to deny entry to the teen. When asked by a local television station about the no-food policy, the owner replied, “Sorry your kid has an affliction but, you know, what can I tell you […] no food, no drink, bottom line.” He noted that the theater’s concession stand sells several diabetes-friendly foods and expressed concern that people might lie about having diabetes if he relaxed the policy. As a medical doctor, he was presumably aware — or should have been — that people with diabetes often carry candy, juice, or glucose tablets to treat potential hypoglycemia, and not just for snacking.

What do you think — is there an important difference between a movie theater banning strawberries as a diabetes-friendly snack, and banning candy or juice for treating hypoglycemia? Should public establishments be required to allow people with diabetes to carry candy or juice as an accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act? Should this theater owner (and pediatrician) face a boycott or a lawsuit, or are those measures too extreme? Leave a comment below!

  • Denita

    The Water Park on the island of Oahu in Hawaii also will not let you bring in anything. The management has respond through his employee we have food here. They have hotdogs and hamburgers and other types of fast food items …. Additionally it was said if we needed anything we could go outside the park area. Hello this is NOT a solution. I think establishment should be required to allow indiviuales to carry their supplies and an emergency pack with them.

  • Judy Arnold

    I have been a type 1 diabetic for 33 years. And I always have my glucose pills in my pocket…. And snacks in my bag…. Some people just don’t get it, if you have a low you need something with sugar in it PDQ. I have told a few people if you think a low blood sugar is not life-threatening let’s just give you a big shot of insulin and see how you act, we can tape it tooo…. Haven’t had any takers on that … I wear a pump and it continues monitor and still sometimes have low blood sugars. People don’t know till they been there and done that.

  • s mccracken

    If the kid gets hypo, he won’t have the energy to go to the stands. I have always carried in snacks and what have you — even soda cans — in my purse — and no one ever questioned me. Before I was a diabetic. That pediatrician should be ashamed. Why pick on this person who was obviously telling the truth?

  • Adrianne

    The first time a lawsuit gets filed, and won, because of a death because of one of these situations, is when a move will be made to fix this. But not until then. Unfortunately, that’s the way our society is now. You have to prove it to them.

  • sunburst

    I am a type 2 and always carry snacks, more so when I golf. Once in awhile @ a new golf course they question my bag of food – snacks packed for a specific sequence to keep my BG from crashing or going too high while playing. Luckily, my diabetes explanation has always sufficed. Even @ a tournament where bringing in food is prohibited, they allow me in rather than risk an ‘event’. If addressed discreetly, no business should stop a diabetic from bringing in food. As pointed out in a previous post, once a severe low starts, it’s too late to get up and get an appropriate snack. Besides, no one knows what snacks work best for us than we do.

  • Andy Ituarte

    While there is a difference between a theatre banning strawberries as a diabetes friendly snack & banning candy or juice for treating hypoglycemia,in my opinion both should be allowed.Also,public establishments should be required to allow people with diabetes to carry candy or juice as an accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act & the theater owner (and pediatrician) should face a lawsuit particularly since he should of known better.While it’s true what he said about people lying about having diabetes,the way around that is to require documentation such as a dr’s note on their letterhead or bringing in diabetes medication that the patient has.

  • Cara

    I had to throw away my unopened bottle of sugared soda at a concert venue this summer. I told the security person I was a type 1 diabetic and did not want to stand in line for a soda should my blood sugar go low. Too bad, throw it away. I had to throw away my water bottles also. I requested to talk with the venue manager and when I explained my situation, she agreed with me and said that I should have been allowed to bring in my unopened soda after telling the security person why I needed it. She gave me another bottle of water as well as a “coupon” for a bottle of soda, which I promptly used to get another bottle. I wear both a medic alert bracelet with “Insulin diabetic” engraved on the front and wear a pump. I told the manager I will not come back to the venue again because of this and I recommended the security people be educated. During the concert, my blood sugar did plummet and I needed that soda. Otherwise, my boyfriend would have needed to stand in line to get me some sugar, or 911 would have needed to be called. Most diabetics carry around some sort of sugar just for in case. I wonder if those nasty glucose tabs would have been acceptable or I would have been told to throw those away too? Having sugar quickly accessible is a matter of survival. What is so hard to understand about that?

  • Supaaaal

    I am not diabetic, but my blood sugar frequently drops so I always carry around candy or fruit. Luckily, I am able to get away with having food with me