A teenager who suffered a fatal reaction after eating a birthday burger at a Byron restaurant was misled into believing there were no allergens in the meal, a coroner has ruled.
Owen Carey, who told staff he was allergic to dairy, suffered a fatal reaction after eating grilled chicken coated in buttermilk at the restaurant at the O2 Arena in Greenwich in April 2017.
In a written conclusion, assistant coroner Briony Ballard, sitting at Southwark Coroner’s Court, ruled: “The deceased died from a severe food-induced anaphylactic reaction from food eaten and ordered at a restaurant despite making staff aware of his allergies.”
The medical cause of death was given as severe food-induced anaphylaxis.
The inquest heard that Carey, 18, did not realise the chicken had been marinated in buttermilk because the ingredient was not listed on the “reassuring” menu.
The coroner ruled: “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.
“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.”
Carey, of Crowborough, East Sussex, collapsed less than an hour after first experiencing an allergic reaction.
Byron chief executive Simon Wilkinson said in a statement: “We take allergies extremely seriously and have robust procedures in place and although those procedures were in line with all the rules and guidelines, 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 we always did our 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 and it is clear that the current rules and requirements are not enough and the industry needs to do more.
“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.”
In a statement outside Southwark Coroner’s Court, Carey’s family said: “Owen was the shining light in our family.
“We are calling on the Government to change the law on allergen labelling in restaurants.
“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 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.”