Owen Carey suffered a fatal allergic reaction to buttermilk chicken at a Byron Burger at the O2 Arena in Greenwich, south east London
A dad broke down in tears after a coroner ruled that his teenage son was ‘misled’ by staff at a Byron restaurant over the ingredients in grilled chicken which killed him.
Owen Carey was eating a birthday meal when he consumed the chicken coated in buttermilk having been told that it was safe to eat.
His dad Paul wept outside Southwark Coroner’s Court as the family called on the food industry to “put the safety of their customers first”.
Owen, who told staff he was allergic to dairy, suffered a fatal reaction at a restaurant at the O2 Arena in Greenwich in April 2017.
They said: “Owen was the shining light in our family.
“We are calling on the Government to change the law on allergen labelling in restaurants.
“We want restaurants to have to display clear allergen information on each individual dish on their menus.
“The food industry should put the safety of their customers first.
“It is simply not good enough to have a policy which relies on verbal communication between the customer and their server, which often takes places in a busy, noisy restaurant where the turnover of staff is high and many of their customers are very young.”
In a written conclusion, assistant coroner Briony Ballard said Owen “died from a severe food-induced anaphylactic reaction from food eaten and ordered at a restaurant despite making staff aware of his allergies”.
The coroner said: “The menu was reassuring in that it made no reference to any marinade or potential allergenic ingredient in the food selected.
“The deceased was not informed that there were allergens in the order.
“The food served to and consumed by the deceased contained dairy which caused the deceased to suffer a severe anaphylactic reaction from which he died.”
Mr Carey, of Crowborough, East Sussex, collapsed less than an hour after first experiencing the reaction.
Speaking outside court after the inquest, Byron chief executive Simon Wilkinson said his death was a “matter of great regret and sadness”.
He said in a statement: “We take allergies extremely seriously and have robust procedures in place and although those procedures were in line with all the rules and guidelines, we train our staff to respond in the right way.
“It is a matter of great regret and sadness that our high standards of communicating with our customers were not met during Owen’s visit.
“We believe we always did our best to meet our responsibilities but we know that this will be of no comfort to Owen’s family.
“We have heard what the coroner said about the need to communicate about allergies and it is clear that the current rules and requirements are not enough and the industry needs to do more.
“We will make it our priority to work with our colleagues across the restaurant industry to ensure that standards and levels of awareness are improved.”
In June this year former Environment Secretary Michael Gove promised a new law protecting allergy sufferers following the death of 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse.
Under “Natasha’s law”, food businesses will have to include full ingredients labelling on pre-packaged food.
Natasha suffered a severe allergic reaction to sesame seeds which were not listed in the ingredients of an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette bought in Heathrow Airport.
She died of anaphylaxis after collapsing on board a flight to Nice on 17 July 2016.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the law would come into effect in October 2021.
Natasha’s parents Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse established the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation in her memory with the aim of establishing a research centre at the University of Southampton to find a cure for allergies.
The parents of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, who died after eating an unlabelled sesame seed Pret A Manger baguette, called Mr Carey’s inquest a “landmark judgment for millions of allergy sufferers in this country”.
In a statement, Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse said: “We have heard remarkable parallels between Owen and Natasha’s death.
“Owen’s death yet again highlights the inadequacy of food information in this country.
“This verdict is a landmark judgment for millions of allergy sufferers in this country and another clear statement to the food industry that things cannot go on as they are.
“Our hearts go out to Owen Carey’s family, who will always carry their terrible grief knowing Owen’s death was so preventable.”
In June this year former Environment Secretary Michael Gove promised a new law protecting allergy sufferers following Natasha’s death.
Under “Natasha’s law”, food businesses will have to include full ingredients labelling on pre-packaged food, with the law scheduled to take effect from October 2021.
The family statement added: “This leaves far too much room for error on an issue we know all too well costs lives.
“We hope that we can bring about change with Owen’s Law for better allergen labelling in restaurants.”
Mr and Mrs Ednan-Laperouse added: “With around 8% of children in this country now having allergies, we are facing an epidemic.
“The food industry should be leading the charge for better information for its millions of customers with allergies, not hiding – as has Byron Burgers – behind corporate legal-speak of being ‘industry standard’ or ‘meeting our legal obligation’.
“Customers with allergies… deserve so much better.
“It is obvious the Food Information Regulations 2014 are out-of-date.
“While we wait for the coroner’s final prevention of deaths report, and the necessary law change, we are calling on the restaurants to implement full allergen menus before other lives are needlessly lost.
“Finally we strongly welcome the coroner’s call for a national register of deaths by anaphylaxis so that all the relevant authorities are fully aware of the full number of fatal incidents which we currently believe are under-reported”.