Food firms warned after allergy death conviction

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Mohammed Zaman was sentenced to six years in prison, after one of his customers suffered fatal anaphylactic shock
Mohammed Zaman was sentenced to six years in prison, after one of his customers suffered fatal anaphylactic shock

Related tags Allergen immunotherapy

Food manufacturers have been warned to ensure comprehensive risk management over allergens, after an Indian restaurant owner was sentenced to six years in prison this week following the death of a customer from anaphylactic shock.

Indian restaurateur Mohammed Zaman, aged 52, was described as having a “cavalier attitude”​ to safety after being jailed for the manslaughter of a customer who suffered a peanut allergy. The customer died after he was supplied with a curry containing peanuts.

Paul Wilson, aged 38, was reported to be meticulous about minimising the risks linked to his peanut allergy. He had stressed to staff who cooked his meal at the Indian Garden in Easingwold, North Yorkshire that the takeaway meal must contain no nuts. But after consuming part of the meal at his home Wilson suffered fatal anaphylactic shock.

During the court proceedings at Teesside Crown Court, a jury was told Zaman switched almond powder for a cheaper ground nut mix, which contained peanuts.

‘Tragic reminder’

Alan Pratten, md of Arthur J Gallagher’s Major Risks Practice and a specialist in the food and drink sector, said: This case is a tragic reminder that accurate labelling, customer safety and allergen awareness are huge issues not just for takeaways and small businesses but for large companies too.

​Knowledge and traceability of products within the supply chain and appropriate labelling and communication notices are key.

“Good housekeeping at your own site is essential in food provision, that is a given, but the physical review of suppliers to assess their own food segregation and risk management is also vital.”

He advised business owners who thought they had passed the risk back to a supplier contractually to be careful.

“That will likely be of little help if they are criminally prosecuted or the supplier’s subsidiary with whom they trade is placed into insolvency,”​ he warned.  

Supply chain scrutiny

Hazel Gowland of Allergy Action said: Supply chain scrutiny and auditing make a huge difference in protecting the interests of allergic people.

“Most allergen best practice in catering has been developed from manufacturing and retail best practice using hazard analysis principles.

“The food labelling regulation 1169/2011 EC has helped to ensure ingredients are better and more legibly labelled. People can't just lump nuts together but have to be specific.”

Meanwhile, anaphylaxis is caused by a problem with the immune system, which is the body's natural defence against illness and infection. During anaphylactic shock, the body’s immune system overreacted to a harmless substance and releases a number of different chemicals, such as histamine, to deal with the mistaken threat.

More than half of all cases of food-related anaphylaxis were caused by peanuts.


Anaphylaxis symptoms

  • Itchy skin or a raised, red skin rash
  • Swollen eyes, lips, hands and feet
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint
  • Swelling of the mouth, throat or tongue, which can cause breathing and swallowing difficulties
  • Wheezing
  • Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
  • Collapse and unconsciousness

Source: National Health Service

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