LONDON — A teenager who died after eating a birthday meal at British burger chain Byron had told staff about his allergy to dairy, but was misled into thinking his order was safe to eat, a coroner has found.
Owen Carey, who was celebrating his 18th birthday at the restaurant in 2017, told waiting staff about his allergies before ordering a fried chicken burger coated in buttermilk at a London branch of the restaurant.
But he was reassured by the menu and told the burger was suitable, the UK’s Press Association (PA) reported.
Carey suffered an allergic reaction soon after eating it and died within an hour.
“The deceased made serving staff aware of his allergies. The menu was reassuring in that it made no reference to any marinade or potential allergenic ingredient in the food selected,” coroner Briony Ballard concluded in a written statement, read at Southwark Coroner’s Court during an inquest on Friday.
“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,” the statement added.
Outside the court, Carey’s family appealed for a change in the law to prevent similar incidents in the future.
“Owen was the shining light in our family. We are calling on the Government to change the law on allergen labelling in restaurants,” his family said in a statement reported by PA.
“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 added.
“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.”
PA reported that the verdict was attended by the parents of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died at 15 after eating an unlabeled sesame seed Pret a Manger baguette in 2016.
In a statement, Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse called Friday’s verdict a “landmark judgement,” adding: “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.”
Byron is one of Britain’s most popular burger chains, with 35 restaurants in London and several others around the country.
Its CEO Simon Wilkinson extended his “deepest condolences” to Carey’s family in a statement. “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,” Wilkinson said.
“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,” he added.