Why food allergies can’t be ignored

It was with great interest I read about a UK restaurant owner being sentenced to six years for manslaughter of a customer with a peanut allergy.

The Guardian writes:

Mohammed Zaman, the restaurant’s owner, was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter and sentenced to six years in jail after the jury at Teesside crown court was told he swapped almond powder in recipes for cheaper groundnut mix, containing peanuts, despite warnings.

It’s alleged that Zaman was in a fair amount of debt, so was cutting corners by using cheaper ingredients and cheaper, illegal workers. The victim, Paul Wilson, had checked with Zaman that his curry had no nuts and was assured it was fine; it wasn’t, and he went in severe anaphylactic shock and died.

This case, for me, highlights how important it is for our customers to be absolutely crystal clear with our staff about their food allergies. Wilson, in this instance, did everything right; unfortunately, the restaurant he put his trust in let him down terribly.

In my mind, food allergies can be broken down into three groups:

  1. A particular ingredient, you just don’t like. If you eat it, there are no adverse effects, you are just not keen (for me, this would be tomatoes).
  2. A particular ingredient, you are mildly allergic to. You can consume a meal that has had that ingredient removed (so there may be some trace ingredient left over) and as long as most of it is gone, you’ll be fine.
  3. A particular ingredient, you are very allergic to (think coeliac disease). You need separate utensils used when your food is handled, and you can’t handle even small amounts of an ingredient.

When dining out, make sure you are very clear with your favourite café as to which category you fit in. If unsure, check with them again.

My viewpoint is you work hard for your money, and you should be able to have a meal, safe in the thought that it’s not going to make you ill. If the café you go to is unwilling to meet your requirements, find another one who is.

Most café’s should be willing, even if you call ahead before hand or see them early in the morning before you’re looking to have lunch.  They should be more than happy to be accommodating.

One comment

  1. Stacey · May 28, 2016

    Preference does not an allergy make. If I don’t like something (beetroot) thats my bag and I can ask to not have it or remove it myself that’s cool. I think it would be helpful for people with allergies/food intolerance to explain the effect of what said food will have if their service staff doesn’t know so they can have a shared understanding and the customer isn’t mistaken as being picky or difficult. It doesn’t help when food fads turn normal food into an enemy as well.


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