April is National Autism Awareness Month, and Chili’s Grill and Bar made headlines when it announced it would donate 10 percent of patrons’ checks on April 7th to the National Autism Association–a charity known for controversial views about the effects of vaccines on children. The NAA’s website states that members of the organization believe that vaccinations have “triggered” autism in a “subset of children” and that mainstream science “discounts” this link.
“The National Autism Association believes vaccinations can trigger or exacerbate autism in some, if not many, children, especially those who are genetically predisposed to immune, autoimmune or inflammatory conditions,” the charity maintains. The NAA cites as evidence parents who “can provide detailed accounts of regression in their children following vaccination” and stresses the importance of considering these accounts.
Following the attention drawn to the charity’s anti-vaccine stance, Chili’s released the following statement via its Facebook page:
At Chili’s Grill & Bar, we’re about making every guest feel special and pride ourselves in giving back to our communities. When choosing a charitable partner for our Give Back Events, both locally and nationally, we are committed to supporting organizations dedicated to helping children and their families.
The intent of our 4/7 National Give Back Event is not to express a view on this matter, but rather to support the families affected by autism. Our choice to partner with the National Autism Association was based on the percentage of donations that would go directly to providing financial assistance to families and supporting programs that aid the development and safety of children with autism. We sincerely appreciate all of the feedback we’ve heard on this topic.
However, following even more public backlash over Chili’s decision to partner with the NAA, the restaurant decided to cancel its fundraising event altogether. Multiple studies have discredited the assertion that vaccines can cause autism in children, and after getting strong customer feedback opposed to the fundraising event, Chili’s decided to take a step back.
Wendy Fournier, who is president of the NAA said she was “shocked” by the public’s reaction and assertion that the NAA was anti-vaccine. “We haven’t even looked at that pate—it’s been up there for years,” she said of the page on the NAA website that has so many upset. However, she also claims that it’s still unclear whether or not vaccines can cause autism, a statement with which many medical professionals would beg to differ.