Family of teen who died after eating at Byron demand change in law

13 September 2019, 22:32 | Updated: 13 September 2019, 23:16

Owen Carey suffered a fatal reaction after eating at the chain restaurant
Owen Carey suffered a fatal reaction after eating at the chain restaurant. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The family of an 18-year-old who died after eating a buttermilk-coated chicken burger at a Byron restaurant have demanded a change in allergen labelling laws.

Owen Carey had a fatal reaction to the burger at a Byron restaurant in Greenwich despite telling staff he was allergic to dairy.

The young man's family demanded a change in the law on restaurant allergen labelling after a coroner said he was misled into thinking the meal was safe for him.

Owen Carey collapsed near the London Eye in April 2017 less than an hour after experiencing tingling lips, stomach cramps and breathing difficulties.

His mother Moira paid tribute to her musician son, saying he "had a load of energy and was always smiling and wanted to get the best out of life" and was their "shining light."

The family called upon the food industry to "put the safety of their customers first" whilst speaking outside of Southwark Coroner's Court.

They said: "We want restaurants to have to display clear allergen information on each individual dish on their menus.

"It is simply not good enough to have a policy which relies on verbal communication between the customer and their server, which often takes place in a busy, noisy restaurant where the turnover of staff is high and many of their customers are very young.

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

This incident follows the death of Mr and Mrs Ednan-Laperouse's daughter, Natasha
This incident follows the death of Mr and Mrs Ednan-Laperouse's daughter, Natasha. Picture: PA

Following the story of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died after eating at Pret A Manger in 2016, the young girl's parents successfully campaigned for "Natasha's Law".

This will ensure businesses include full ingredient labelling on pre-packaged food from October 2021.

However, according to Natasha's father, Nadim, this will not apply to restaurants.

Mr Ednan-Laperouse attended Owen's inquest where his family called for "Owen's Law".

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.

"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."

Assistant coroner Briony Ballard said the Owen, who had been 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".

Byron&squot;s chief executive said the food industry "needs to do more" to prevent further deaths
Byron's chief executive said the food industry "needs to do more" to prevent further deaths. Picture: PA

In a written conclusion, she 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."

Byron chief executive Simon Wilkinson spoke after the inquest, saying Owen's death was a "matter of great regret and sadness" and acknowledged the food industry "needs to do more".

He said: "We take allergies extremely seriously and have robust procedures in place.

"Although those procedures were in line with all the rules and guidelines, and 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 that Byron always did its best to meet our responsibilities, but we know that this will be of no comfort to Owen's family.

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