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Killed by buttermilk on chicken

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Joint Byline

By Xantha Leatham and Frazer Norwell

Restaurant menus should display a red ‘A’ next to all dishes which contain allergens a coroner suggested yesterday.

The recommendation was made during the inquest to Owen Cary, 18, who collapsed in his girlfriends arms after eating at a branch of upmarket burger chain Byron.

He had been served a piece of grilled chicken with buttermilk coating, which is thought to have triggered a severe reaction.

Briony Ballard, Southwark’s assistant coroner, said that displaying a red mark next to all meals containing an allergen could help protect diners.

Owen, who was visiting London in April 2017 to celebrate his birthday, was allergic to foods such as spices, peanuts, wheat products and dairy products, but had never had an extreme reaction before.

At Southwark Coroners Court yesterday, a representative for the family argues that the Byron menu did not make it clear the chicken would have a buttermilk coating, and that the allergy notice was not prominent enough on the menu.

But Aimee Leitner-Hopps Byron’s head of food and compliance, denied any wrongdoing by the firm.

She defended the menus and the restaurants employees, saying all staff had safety training, that all local authority inspections had been passed, and that Byrons allergy notice was displayed in line with industry practice. At the time a request that customers inform waiters of allergies was on the back of the menu at the bottom of the page.

She said: ‘There are many people that come in and tell us they have allergies. It’s never been an issue- the placement or size of the warning.

‘with other brands you will find very similar messaging in a very similar way.’

The coroner said I don’t see the problem with having a simple red A next to every menu item which contains an allergen. It could prevent a fatality- that would be worth it.’

But Miss Leitner-Hopps replied: ‘that would mean an A next to probably about 95 per cent of dishes. It would breed complacency and would become a dangerous environment to dine in.

‘A dialogue needs to occur between the customer, the waiting staff and then into the kitchen.’

It is unclear whether Owen told staff he had allergies, or asked about the ingredients in his meal.

Owen of Crowborough, East Sussex, was going to the Sea Life Centre in central London when he collapsed and was taken to nearby St Thomas’ hospital. The inquest continues.

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