June 21, 2016

Reckless restaurant owner jailed after killing customer with peanut curry

A ‘reckless’ restaurant owner has been jailed for six years for the manslaughter of a customer who suffered a fatal anaphylactic shock following an allergic reaction to a takeaway curry.

The 52 year old businessman was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence when a customer with a severe peanut allergy died after eating a takeaway ordered from the restaurant – despite the diner insisting his meal must be nut-free.

And in a judgement that should serve as a wake up call for other food retail businesses, Teesside Crown Court said ‘he had put profit before safety‘ by failing to warn customers with allergies he was using peanuts in the ingredients.

The scale of allergy safety issues in the UK

Each year around 5,000 people in the UK need treatment in hospital for severe allergic reactions. While deaths such as this are rare, ten Britons still die each year from an anaphylactic shock.

An allergy to nuts is among the most common, and considered a high-risk hazard in the Consumer Protection Act.

Experts say the majority of these deaths and visits to hospital are avoidable, with many a result of people receiving incorrect information about product ingredients.

Food Allergies and the Law

The Food Information for Consumers Regulation 2014 requires businesses to communicate which dishes they sell contain any of 14 specified allergens – including shellfish, soya beans, milk and celery, as well as peanuts.

Businesses can display this information either through accurate written notices provided to customers (for example on the menu or a noticeboard), or by signposting clear instructions explaining how customers can obtain this information from their staff.

If allergy advice is not clearly given, the Food Standards Agency says there need to be clear signs about where it can be obtained.

Takeaway operators taking online or telephone orders are also required to notify clients where to find information about the allergens in their products.

Many operators, particularly small ones, are either unaware of the new developments or unsure how to implement them.

And it’s often difficult to accurately identify, record and communicate the use of allergens in dishes, even when operators are fully aware of the new rules.

But failing to comply with this requirement could lead to businesses facing huge fines and criminal prosecution.

What you need to do to Comply with the Law around Food Allergies

Moorepay guidance notes provide business owners with detailed information on preventing food allergies and complying with the relevant regulations.

As a first step, the owner of any catering business should check their menus and ingredients, where any of the 14 allergens listed in the regulations are used, and ensure customers have information advising them if the allergen is present.

A fast-and-simple method for achieving this is to give staff access to a list of foods on the menu detailing the allergens contained in the meal.

Price lists, table menus and websites can then advise customers to ask staff for allergen information.

Contact the team for further guidance or call 0845 184 4615.

Want a round-up of stories like this delivered to your inbox?

About the author

Philip Barker

Philip has worked for Moorepay for over nine years, starting as a Health & Safety Consultant in February 2008 before taking up the position of Consultancy Manager in January 2015. Coming from a retail background, both as a store manager and health & safety professional, he already had a good cross industry experience. Working at Moorepay has provided an opportunity to broaden both knowledge and experience across a wide range of industry sectors. Philip started his health & safety career after a number of years managing retail stores and holds a HNC in Environmental Health Studies, a Diploma in Environmental Policy and a NEBOSH Diploma.