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Family demand further food allergy law change after another teenage dies

UK News | Published:

Owen Carey suffered a lethal reaction after being misled that a birthday burger bought at a branch of Byron was safe for him to eat.

The family of a teenager who died after eating a birthday meal at the Byron burger chain have demanded a change in the law on allergen labelling in restaurants after a coroner said he was misled into thinking the meal was safe for him.

Owen Carey, who told staff he was allergic to dairy, suffered a fatal reaction after eating buttermilk-coated grilled chicken at a Byron branch at the O2 Arena in Greenwich in April 2017.

His mother Moira paid tribute to the keen musician, who played trumpet, violin and electric guitar, saying he “had a load of energy and was always smiling and wanted to get the best out of life”.

Speaking outside Southwark Coroner’s Court on Friday, Owen’s family said he was their “shining light” and called on the food industry to “put the safety of their customers first”.

Calling for “Owen’s Law”, they said: “We want restaurants to have to display clear allergen information on each individual dish on their menus.

Owen Carey inquest
Owen’s family after the inquest (Yui Mok/PA)

“This leaves far too much room for error on an issue we know all too well costs lives.”

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Their demand was echoed by Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, whose 15-year-old daughter Natasha died after eating a Pret A Manger baguette in 2016.

The couple campaigned successfully for “Natasha’s Law”, which will require businesses to include full ingredient labelling on pre-packaged food from October 2021.

But Mr Ednan-Laperouse, who attended Owen’s inquest, said Natasha’s Law will not apply to restaurants.

He said: “Natasha’s Law will cover what’s called pre-packaged for direct sale, it’s Pret A Manger, Greggs … but restaurants, as in sit-down restaurants, don’t pre-package their food so that law doesn’t apply to them.

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“Natasha’s Law has fixed one element of the problem in the total food landscape. It’s like going up one rung of the ladder, we need to keep going up another rung, another rung, until the whole food environment is transparent about what’s in the food.”

Owen Carey inquest
The family of Owen Carey called him their ‘shining light’ (Family handout/PA)

“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’.”

They added:”Our hearts go out to Owen Carey’s family, who will always carry their terrible grief knowing Owen’s death was so preventable.”

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.

At the end of Owen’s inquest assistant coroner Briony Ballard said the teenager, who had been out celebrating his 18th birthday with his family, “died from a severe food-induced anaphylactic reaction from food eaten and ordered at a restaurant despite making staff aware of his allergies”.

Owen Carey inquest
Owen Carey, who died on April 22 2017 (Family handout/PA)

“The deceased was not informed that there were allergens in the order.”

Owen’s order was described on the menu as “Classic Chicken – grilled chicken breast, shredded iceberg, tomato, red onion, pickles, Byron sauce”, according to lawyers from Leigh Day, who represented Owen’s family.

Owen Carey inquest
Owen’s sister Emma Kocher (Yui Mok/PA)

“We take allergies extremely seriously and have robust procedures in place.

Owen Carey inquest
A coroner at Southwark Coroner’s Court has ruled at an inquest into the death of Owen Carey that he was misled into believing that there were no allergens in his meal at the Byron hamburger restaurant (Aaron Chown/PA)

“We believe that Byron always did its 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.

“It is clear that the current rules and requirements are not enough and the industry needs to do more – more to help support customers with allergies and more to raise awareness of the risks of allergies.

“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.”

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