A general view of the atmosphere at the pre-party for the premiere of Columbia Pictures' (Getty Images/AFP/Alberto E. Rodriguez)
Sony Pictures is under fire for a scene in its new "Peter Rabbit" film, which critics say trivializes food allergies when a herd of rambunctious bunnies weaponize blackberries to gang up on their human nemesis.
The controversial sequence shows rabbits attacking the movie's villain, human character Tom McGregor, with the fruits, to which he is allergic.
After a berry flies into his mouth, the character attempts to inject himself with an EpiPen -- but has anaphylaxis and crumples to the ground.
In an open letter to Sony, the Kids with Food Allergies charity admonished the film's "cavalier attitude" towards allergic reactions, saying "making light of this condition hurts our members because it encourages the public not to take the risk of allergic reactions seriously."
A Change.org petition accusing "Peter Rabbit" -- which nabbed second place and raked in $25 million at the North American box office this past weekend -- of "irresponsible allergy bullying" drew more than 10,000 signatures.
"To spread a message that condones such victimizing and dangerous behavior amongst children is grossly offensive to worldwide viewers especially those who live with severe allergic disease," the petition demanding an apology read.
Sony Pictures and the filmmakers issued an apology Sunday, 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," read the statement that circulated widely on US media.
Twitter users flocked to the social media platform to voice their disdain under the hashtag #BoycottPeterRabbit.
"Would you laugh at a person with diabetes force fed sugar? No. But that's exactly what you're doing in your movie: continuing to marginalize people with #foodallergies," wrote one user with the handle @jamiefid.
But for some, the fierce backlash triggered eyerolls: "I can't believe that grown adults are crying over this! Get a life it’s a movie!!" wrote user @knute5910.
The film, which mixes live actors with computer-generated animation, is based loosely on a children's book by Beatrix Potter and rated PG for rude humor and action.