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A restaurant assured a severely allergic teenager that his meal didn't contain dairy — then he died of anaphylactic shock

The family wants the UK government to force restaurants to be more diligent in warning customers about allergens

Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

A severely allergic teenager in the United Kingdom died after a restaurant served him food with dairy in it, despite assuring him that it was safe.

What happened?

Owen James Carey visited the Byron Burger in London on his 18th birthday in April 2017. He asked the restaurant specifically if the meal he had ordered was free from any dairy, explaining that he was incredibly allergic to it. They assured him that it was dairy free. The menu also indicated that the meal did not contain dairy.

Except there was dairy. The chicken in the sandwich he had ordered was fried in buttermilk.

Coroner Briony Ballard said in a statement on Friday, "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."

Ballard also said that Carey suffered "a severe anaphylactic reaction from which he died."

The restaurant CEO weighed in

"We have heard what the Coroner said about the need to communicate about allergies," Simon Wilkinson, the CEO of Byron, said in a statement after the ruling on Friday. "It is clear that the current rules and requirements are not enough and the industry needs to do more — more to help support customers with allergies and more to raise awareness of the risks of allergies."

Wilkinson also said that his restaurant "always did its best to meet our responsibilities," although he acknowledged that "this will be of no comfort to Owen's family."

Carey's family is trying to keep this from happening to other people

"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," Carey's family said in a statement.

They asked the government to ensure that restaurants took these precautions.

"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," the family added.

One last thing…
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