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Coroner calls for food allergy deaths register after teenager’s fatal reaction

Owen Carey died after suffering a severe reaction to a meal at Byron burgers while celebrating his 18th birthday.

Owen Carey (Family handout/PA)
Owen Carey (Family handout/PA)

By Luke Powell, PA

A coroner has called for action on food allergy information after an 18-year-old suffered a fatal reaction to a meal at the Byron burger chain.

Owen Carey, from Crowborough in East Sussex, died after eating dairy in a grilled chicken breast at Byron’s branch at the 02 Arena in Greenwich, London, on April 22 2017.

Mr Carey, who was celebrating his 18th birthday with his family, made staff aware of his allergies but was not told the chicken was marinated in buttermilk, an inquest into his death heard in September.

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Owen Carey’s sister Emma Kocher and father Paul Carey outside Southwark Coroner’s Court following his inquest (Yui Mok/PA)

Assistant coroner Briony Ballard, who investigated Mr Carey’s death, has now said that unless action is taken around food allergy information “there is a risk that future deaths will occur”.

Ms Ballard said in a “report to prevent future deaths”, which has been sent to health officials, that she had concerns about the lack of a national register recording severe food anaphylactic reactions.

“I was told in evidence that despite faster ambulance response times, a greater awareness of allergies and a greater distribution of EpiPens that the death rate for severe food anaphylaxis remains static,” Ms Ballard said.

“This is attributed in part to the fact that little is known about these deaths because thus far there has been a failure to collect any learning from these tragedies.”

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Owen Carey was celebrating his 18th birthday when he died (Family handout/PA)

Mr Carey’s inquest at Southwark Coroner’s Court heard that fatal food anaphylaxis is responsible for around 150 deaths in the UK over the past 25 to 30 years.

Ms Ballard said a national register recording the circumstances around deaths from food allergies “could then be analysed and learnt from” by specialists.

Her report, published on November 10, was sent to organisations including the Food Standards Agency, the National Trading Standards Board, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department of Health and Social Care and Byron’s chief executive officer Simon Wilkinson.

Ms Ballard also raised concerns about the effectiveness of allergen training at Byron 02, the effectiveness of the placement and appearance of allergen notices on restaurant menus, and the lack of “key” allergen information on the front of menus.

Mr Wilkinson said in a statement to the PA news agency that he “wholeheartedly” agreed with the coroner’s call for a national register to record severe food reactions.

He said Byron’s menus are now as “descriptive as possible” without eliminating the need for customers to consult an allergy guide.

The prominence and size of allergen notices have also been enlarged on Byron’s latest menu, which was launched last month, Mr Wilkinson said.

He added that “from this month” each employee will have their own personal training module and records of when they complete them.

Mr Carey’s family said in a statement: “Now that we have the coroner’s report we are even more determined to push for change to honour Owen’s memory.

“As a family we are calling for legislative change, ‘Owen’s Law’, so that the discretion afforded to restaurants to provide allergen information orally is removed.”

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Natasha Ednan-Laperouse fell ill on a flight from London to Nice (Family handout/PA)

A new law was announced in June requiring all food businesses to label full ingredients on pre-packaged food following the death Natasha Ednan-Laperouse.

The 15-year-old, from Fulham, west London, died of anaphylaxis after collapsing on a flight in 2016.

She suffered a severe allergic reaction after unknowingly eating sesame in a baguette from Pret a Manger.

PA

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