Owen Carey: Teen died after eating burger 'not shown to contain buttermilk'

Owen Carey: Teen died after eating burger 'not shown to contain buttermilk'

Published at 4:01pm 12th September 2019. (Updated at 5:48pm 12th September 2019)

A teenager with a dairy allergy died after eating a Byron burger coated with buttermilk - an ingredient that was not on the menu, an inquest has heard.

Owen Carey ordered a chicken burger while celebrating his 18th birthday with his family in April 2017.

He asked for a skinny grilled burger with no sauce at the chain's branch at the O2 Arena in Greenwich.

Mr Carey did not realise the chicken had been marinated with buttermilk because the ingredient was not listed on the menu, the inquest at Southwark Coroner's Court was told.

Mr Carey, from Crowborough in East Sussex, began to experience symptoms after leaving the restaurant.

He later collapsed alongside the London Eye and died at St Thomas' Hospital.

Barrister Clodagh Bradley, who is representing the Carey family, argued the omission of buttermilk from the menu could make a customer "believe" it was a plain chicken breast.

Byron's technical manager, Aimee Leitner-Hopps, said there were many component ingredients in dishes that were not elaborated on in the menu.

She added: "If you have an allergy you should be asking for information and the team would be able to provide that information in the allergy guide."

Coroner Briony Ballard noted that allergy information had been in the "fine print" on the back of the restaurant's 2017 menu and asked why that was.

The information was "difficult to read" and was in "black print" against a blue background, Ms Bradley said.

Ms Leitner-Hopps replied: "I think most businesses were taking the same approach that the customer would inform the restaurant about (their) allergies."

She added that the chain had had "numerous local authority visits over the years" and had "never been told" to change the size or clarity of the wording.

Giving evidence, allergy specialist Dr Robert Boyle said the likely cause of death was an anaphylactic reaction to his food, specifically cow's milk.

Dr Boyle, of St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, has now called for better understanding of fatal food anaphylaxis, which he said is responsible for around 150 deaths in the UK over the past 25 to 30 years.

The inquest heard Mr Carey, who suffered from asthma and various other food allergies, was not carrying his Epipen at the time.

But Dr Boyle said it was "unlikely", based on available evidence, that an Epipen would have made a difference to the outcome.

Following Mr Carey's death, all staff received online allergen training and onsite training too, Ms Leitner-Hopps said.

They now ask customers directly if they have any allergies or dietary requirements.

When staff are informed about an allergy, they press a button that ensures the world "allergen" is highlighted on the order ticket, along with space for further details.

Staff are then expected to speak directly to the kitchen team to ensure the information has been received.

The inquest will conclude on Friday.

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