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Allergy death: Coroner says victim was ‘reassured by menu’

A teenager with a dairy allergy who died after eating chicken coated with buttermilk at a Byron Burger restaurant was "reassured" by the wording of the menu, a coroner has ruled.

Owen Carey had a fatal reaction after eating a chicken burger while celebrating his 18th birthday with his family on 22 April 2017.

He collapsed alongside the London Eye, less than an hour later after first experiencing an allergic reaction to his meal, and was taken to St Thomas' Hospital where he died.

Southwark Coroner's Court heard how Mr Carey, of Crowborough, East Sussex, did not realise the chicken had been marinated because the buttermilk ingredient was not listed on the menu.

Coroner Briony Ballard concluded on Friday that the teenager died from a food-induced allergic reaction to his meal at a Byron Burger branch at the O2 Arena, in Greenwich, London.

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The coroner said Mr Carey had grown up with severe allergies to dairy, wheat and peanut products and was used to going into restaurants and making clear to waiting staff that he had these allergies.

She described his death as a "tragedy" and said Mr Carey had told staff at the outlet about his allergies and he was reassured by the menu which did not mention buttermilk and allergens.

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"The menu was reassuring in that it made no reference to any marinade or potential allergenic ingredient in the food selected," she said.

"The deceased was not informed that there were allergens in the order."

Mr Carey ordered a plain, skinny grilled chicken burger with fries, but unbeknown to him – and the member of staff who took his order – it was marinated in buttermilk.

When he started to eat his meal. his lips began to tingle and he became progressively more ill. Mr Carey suffered stomach pains before he collapsed into cardiac arrest.

The coroner said Byron Burger met industry standards in terms of the wording on the menu, but she added there was some sort of breakdown in their system which allowed Mr Carey's order to go through.

She concluded the verbal training the firm gave in terms of handling allergen orders may not "catch the less diligent staff".

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

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