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Owen Carey’s family push for law change following Coroner’s report

The family of Owen Carey have called for an urgent change in the law as the Prevention of Further Death (PFD) report is published following the inquest into Owen’s death, which the coroner concluded was as a result of severe food induced anaphylaxis.

Owen Carey

14 November 2019

Owen, who lived in East Sussex, died on 22 April 2017 after eating at the Byron hamburger restaurant at the O2 Arena in Greenwich, London whilst celebrating his 18th birthday with his family.

Owen had a number of allergies, including dairy and on his visit to the restaurant he had eaten a grilled chicken breast without a bun. He had no idea that the chicken had been marinated in buttermilk, which the coroner heard triggered an allergic reaction that led to his death. His inquest heard evidence, which was accepted as fact by the coroner, that Owen had clearly told the waiting staff about his allergies.
 
A regulation 28 report, also known as a Prevention of Future Deaths report, is sent by the coroner following an inquest to an individual, organisations, local authorities or government departments and their agencies where the coroner believes that action should be taken to prevent further deaths.
 
The regulation 28 report following Owen’s death has been sent by Assistant Coroner of Inner South London Briony Ballard to Simon Wilkinson, the CEO of Byron Hamburgers; The Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Matt Hancock as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care; Emily Miles, the CEO of the Food Standards Agency; Lord Toby Harris, the Chair of the National Trading Standards Board and the president of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
 
In her report Ms Ballard requests a response from Mr Wilkinson, by 25th November 2019, on the adequacy and effectiveness of allergen training at Byron O2. 
 
The coroner also asks the agencies responsible for their reaction to concerns over the effectiveness of the current placement and appearance of allergen notices on restaurant menus to trigger an allergen discussion between a customer and serving staff.
 
Ms Ballard also raises concerns with the government departments and agencies over the lack of key allergen information on the face of restaurant menus and therefore their potential to be falsely reassuring, as well as raising questions over the lack of a national register recording severe food anaphylactic reactions.

Since the conclusion of Owen’s inquest his family have been calling for a change in the way allergen information in restaurants is regulated to make it safer for all allergy sufferers. 

The Carey family said:

“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. We want a combined approach where restaurants are compelled to provide clear and prominent allergen information for each dish on the face of the menu and for staff to be required to proactively ask diners if they have allergies. This must be legislative change, as simply encouraging best practice will not guarantee change nor will it be done consistently across the industry. More must be done to ensure the safety of allergy sufferers like Owen.”

Michelle Victor from the specialist food allergy team at Leigh Day, who represent the family of Owen Carey, said:
 
“We are pleased that the coroner is taking the issue of food induced anaphylaxis seriously. No family should have faced the avoidable death of a loved one following a celebratory meal.
 
“The provision of allergy information must be taken more seriously by food business outlets, whether they are being served their food or if they are purchasing it in a store, they should always be told what is in their food.
 
“There are millions of people in the UK who suffer from food allergies and it is only right that they are able to make fully informed decisions about the food that they eat. The discretion afforded to food business outlets to provide allergen information either in writing or orally is due an overhaul to protect those with allergies.
 
“The onus should be placed on those serving food to provide allergen information and not for the customer to hunt around for that information. There have been too many fatalities caused by food induced anaphylaxis and urgent change to the law is now needed before further unnecessary fatalities occur.”

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