Two years ago, Owen Cary died from anaphylactic shock after eating a birthday meal at the Byron, the British burger chain, despite informing staff of his dairy allergy.
The teen was celebrating his 18th birthday on April 22, 2017 was led to believe his order was safe to consume when he inquired about a meal that did not label any allergens whatsoever on the menu.
He started to feel symptoms of an allergic reaction just after consuming half of a grilled chicken burger he had ordered, unaware it had been marinated in buttermilk.
Cary, who had been in London with his girlfriend for the day, collapsed in her arms while walking to the London Aquarium following the meal. Paramedics then arrived on the scene and gave first aid but he died at St. Thomas’s hospital 45 minutes later.
Earlier this month, Briony Ballard – assistant coroner, called Carey’s death a tragedy.
“The deceased made serving staff aware of his allergies. The menu was reassuring in that it made no reference to any marinade or potential allergenic ingredient in the food selected,” Ballard concluded in a statement read regarding the investigation at Southwark Coroner’s Court.
“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,” Ballard’s statement continued.
Both the investigation as well as the verdict were validating for Carey’s family who said they knew their son would have taken every precaution while eating out.
“We’re very glad the coroner saw that and took it on board, because it was important to us that Owen said what he said at the restaurant,” Owen’s father, Paul Carey, shared with the BBC. “He knew exactly what he could and couldn’t eat, and I think it’s because we had drilled it into him from an early age.”
The family is now vouching for a new law to require allergen labeling on all restaurant menus to prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future.
“Owen was the shining light in our family. We are calling on the Government to change the law on allergen labeling in restaurants,” his family said in a statement. “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.”
The statement continued with: “It is simply not good enough to have a policy which relies on verbal communication between the customer and their server, which often takes places in a busy, noisy restaurant where the turnover of staff is high and many of their customers are very young.”