Reckless Wellingborough curry house left teenager with peanut allergy hospitalised

The owner was spared jail today

Friday, 6th November 2020, 2:03 pm

A teenager with a peanut allergy was left unconscious after eating a 'nut-free' dish from a Wellingborough curry house which contained a potentially fatal dose.

Akash Tandoori owner Mohammed Uddin, 50, was spared jail today (Friday) after his firm's recklessness could have killed the 19-year-old.

Experts concluded that just one mouthful of the Cambridge Street restaurant's chicken malayan had FOUR HUNDRED times the amount of peanut known to cause a reaction in the most sensitive one per cent of sufferers. Fortunately the victim has made a full recovery.

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Uddin, pictured outside Northampton Crown Court, owns Akash in Wellingborough

In a hearing held over two days, Northampton Crown Court heard a woman called Akash Tandoori on June 16 last year to order a takeaway for her family, including her daughter who is allergic to peanuts. After asking whether the chicken malayan contained nuts she was told it didn't so placed an order and the food arrived shortly after. But about 30 minutes after finishing the meal her daughter started to feel unwell.

Prosecuting, Michael Coley said: "She began to vomit and felt a rash and flu-like symptoms."

Her family called 111 and took her to A&E at Kettering General Hospital. She lost consciousness, suffered an anaphylactic shock and had to be treated with steroids. She had to stay at hospital overnight and had to be supervised at home in case she suffered a secondary reaction.

Summarising a victim impact statement, Mr Coley said: "She no longer eats Indian food unless it's been prepared by her family.

"For the week after the incident she was scared to eat anything at all.

"She has lost trust...she finds it difficult to eat out again."

Her family contacted Citizens Advice and the case went to Northamptonshire County Council's trading standards team. Three days later trading standards officer Angus Mackay conducted a test purchase, phoning and stating he had a nut allergy before ordering a chicken malayan with pilau rice.

But he was told about one key ingredient that the family of the ill teenager had not been informed of.

Mr Coley said: "Unlike the victim's family, he was told the dish contained nuts."

Mr Mackay then asked whether the chicken ceylon had nuts and was told it only had coconut in it. He tried to order a peshwari naan, expecting to be told it had nuts, but wasn't. He went to the restaurant to pick up the order and asked for a chicken malayan, saying he wanted it to be peanut-free, and identified himself as a trading standards officer after paying for the meal.

The allergy matrix wasn't complete and he asked to see the ingredients but chefs appeared confused about what was in each curry, with one saying the chicken malayan only had coconut in it.

Mr Coley said: "However, he then said he sometimes thickened it with a paste with almonds."

A food allergy expert who analysed the samples concluded that the chicken malayan had about 2,000mg of peanut protein in it. A 0.2mg dose is known to cause a reaction in the most sensitive one per cent of the peanut allergy population, the court heard.

Just one mouthful of the curry would have had 80mg of peanut protein - 400 times the amount that can cause a reaction. The chicken ceylon also had 0.3mg of peanut protein in the meal, one-and-a-half times the amount that can cause a reaction.

A doctor said that almost all if not all of peanut allergic population would suffer a reaction and that anyone with an allergy to peanuts who ate a small amount could suffer a reaction which could lead to death. Both meals were declared unsafe.

Staff, Recorder Timothy Green said, had been throwing peanut powder into dishes "on an ad hoc basis".

Follow-up visits also found issues with the restaurant - which had a hygiene rating of one out of five at the time of the incident - with the allergy matrix missing just three weeks ago. Uddin, of Gold Street, said he had given it to his legal representatives for his sentencing hearing but had no made copies, leaving staff forced to rely on their memory if someone asked for a dish without allergens.

Uddin, who spoke through a Bengali interpreter, had worked at the restaurant for 10 years and took over the firm in March 2019, just three months before the incident.

Mitigating, Liam Muir said he struggled to adapt and didn't appreciate the issues when he took over as director.

He said: "It was all a shock to him. It was all new."

The court heard Uddin has taken out a £25,000 loan to keep the curry house afloat and has struggled this year because of the Covid pandemic and because parking outside the restaurant is suspended as part of highways measures.

Mr Muir added: "This is a man in very unfamiliar surroundings who is trying and who is making very silly decisions and very silly mistakes."

Uddin and Spice In Limited, the firm owned by him which runs the restaurant, later admitted two breaches of the Food Safety Act and three charges of failing to comply with food safety and hygiene regulations.

Sentencing, Recorder Green said the firm had a history of a reckless approach to food safety and that it was fortunate the victim didn't die.

He warned Uddin: "Food safety is not an optional extra."

Uddin's four-month prison sentence was suspended for two years and he will have to complete 40 hours of unpaid work. He was warned he will be sent to prison if he commits another food safety offence.

Recorder Green said: "This is your chance. There won't be any more."

Spice In Limited was fined £10,000, which must be paid in the next two years.

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