Coroner calls for food allergy death register after teen suffered fatal reaction to Byron burger

14 November 2019, 11:05

The family of Owen Carey (left to right) mother Moira, sister Emma Kocher and father Paul Carey
The family of Owen Carey (left to right) mother Moira, sister Emma Kocher and father Paul Carey. Picture: PA

By Megan White

A coroner has called for a food allergy deaths register after a teenager suffered a fatal reaction to a chicken burger at the chain Byron.

Owen Carey was celebrating his 18th birthday when he died after eating dairy in a grilled chicken breast at Byron's branch at the 02 Arena in Greenwich, London, on April 22 2017.

The teen, from Crowborough in East Sussex, made staff aware of his allergies but was not told the chicken was marinated in buttermilk, an inquest into his death heard in September.

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".

She 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.

File photo of a Byron burger restaurant
File photo of a Byron burger restaurant. Picture: PA

Ms Ballard added: "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.

"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."

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.

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.

The family of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse who died after eating sesame in a Pret baguette
The family of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse who died after eating sesame in a Pret baguette. Picture: PA

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."

Ms Ballard’s 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.

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.