Teen served fatal dish despite alerting waitstaff to severe dairy allergy, coroner says

A United Kingdom teen celebrating his 18th birthday went for a meal at a popular burger joint in London. Hours later, he died.

Owen Carey had a severe allergy to dairy. In April 2017, to celebrate his 18th birthday, Carey went to Byron Burgers’ location along the River Thames in London.

He alerted staff to his dairy allergy, inquiring if the grilled chicken he was eyeing would be safe for him to eat — especially because the chain’s menu, at the time, reportedly made “no mention” of the marinade or what ingredients it contained, including potential allergens, the BBC reported.

The 18-year-old was seemingly satisfied with the response he received from staff members and proceeded to order the chicken. But shortly after leaving the restaurant, Carey began to feel unwell. Less than an hour later, the teen collapsed near the London Eye. He was rushed to St. Thomas's Hospital in central London, but died.

Soon after, the teen’s family would learn the chicken Carey ate was marinated in buttermilk, sparking his anaphylactic reaction. Though Carey typically carried an EpiPen, he did not have it with him the day he ate the buttermilk-laden chicken, according to the Guardian.

Following an inquest into Carey’s death, a coroner on Friday announced at Southwark Coroner’s Court that Carey was misled into thinking the chicken was safe for him to eat.

Carey, according to statement read in court by assistant coroner Briony Ballard, “died from a severe food-induced anaphylactic reaction from food eaten and ordered at a restaurant despite making staff aware of his allergies,” according to the British Press Association.

He continued: “The menu was reassuring in that it made no reference to any marinade or potential allergenic ingredients in the food selected. The deceased was not informed that there were allergens in the order.”

“The food served to and consumed by the deceased contained dairy which caused the deceased to suffer a severe anaphylactic reaction from which he died.”

Carey’s family is now pushing for new laws on allergen labeling in restaurants.

"Owen was the shining light in our family," the teen’s sister, Emma Kocher, said in a statement outside of court.

“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,” she continued.

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