The Allergy ‘row’ continues unabated with the inquest of an 18 year old who died from an allergy to buttermilk (and all dairy products): Owen Carey, who was celebrating his 18th birthday when he collapsed on 22 April 2017, had earlier ordered skinny grilled chicken at the O2 Arena branch of Byron’s burger chain, but the menu contained “no mention” of a marinade of butter milk, the inquest heard.

While I sympathise with people who have allergies, as do many of my fellow professionals, I still believe it is incumbent on clients to inform the restaurateur, as opposed to meals having a complete list of ingredients on the menu/packaging. Who knows we may one day end up with people allergic to salt: Do we expect that to be put on a list of ingredients? I have no doubt that staff training is imperative and in this case did a member of staff not know that buttermilk was a dairy product? But did the young man fail to inform his server that he was allergic to dairy?

Technical manager of the Byron chain, Aimee Leitner-Hopps, said a notice on the menu asked customers to advise staff of allergies. She also told Southwark Coroner’s Court all waiting staff underwent allergy training.

The inquest heard Mr Carey started to experience symptoms after leaving the restaurant, before he collapsed outside the London Eye. He died later at St Thomas’s Hospital in central London.

Clodagh Bradley QC, representing the Carey family, of Crowborough, Sussex, said regulations required allergy information in a restaurant to be clearly visible.

Information on the Byron menu was “at the very bottom, in a really very small font, in black print, on a royal blue background” making it difficult to read, she added.


Ms Leitner-Hopps said: “It’s perfectly legible in my opinion.”

She also said it complied with legal obligations.

When asked by assistant coroner Briony Ballard why it could not be more prominent, she replied: “The expectation is that a customer with an allergy should inform us.”

Ms Leitner-Hopps said there had been numerous local authority visits over the years to the restaurant but they had “never been told” the wording was not clear enough or was too small.

Ms Bradley QC also said: “The menu makes no mention at all of marinade. It would be very easy for a reader of the menu to think this was a plain grilled chicken breast.”

Ms Leitner-Hopps said: “If you have an allergy you should be asking for information and the team would have provided it.”

Since Mr Carey’s death, she said, and subsequent research showing one in 10 people aged 16 to 24 hide their allergies, staff now ask customers directly if they have any allergies or dietary requirements.

I’m afraid I am still convinced that if people state their allergies (even though some maybe preferences rather than allergies) as opposed to relying on information on menus, then a lot of these sad situations may not occur.

(some content courtesy of BBC news)