British Restaurant Owner Jailed For Causing Peanut Allergy Death

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The owner of a curry restaurant has been imprisoned for serving a dish containing peanuts to a customer and causing his death.

The customer who had a severe allergy to peanuts had requested a Chicken Tikka meal without nuts.

The curry house owner pleaded in his defense that he was not on the premises when the deadly curry was prepared. He was sentenced to six years for manslaughter.

The New York Times reports:

It marked the first time in Britain that someone has been convicted of manslaughter over the sale of food.

The customer, Paul Wilson, 38, ordered chicken tikka masala, to go, from the Indian Garden restaurant in North Yorkshire in January 2014, having specified “no nuts” in his order.

Mr. Wilson had diligently avoided peanuts and dishes made with them ever since he had a severe reaction to eating a chocolate bar with peanuts when he was 7 years old. He was “very, very careful,” his mother, Margaret, said, especially when ordering his favorite meal.

Mr. Wilson had eaten food from Indian Garden before, and the restaurant had gone so far as to write “no nuts” on the lid of his curry container.

But after just one bite of what would be his last meal, Mr. Wilson had an allergic reaction. His roommate found him slumped on his toilet at home, where he had gone into anaphylactic shock and died.

Prosecutors said that the restaurateur, Mohammed Zaman, 52, who owns six restaurants, was about 300,000 pounds, or about $434,000, in debt. He had cut corners, they said, replacing almond powder in his recipes six months earlier with a cheaper mix of groundnuts, and hiring untrained, undocumented workers to turn out the popular curry dishes at his restaurants.

Another customer with a nut allergy had to be treated at a hospital after eating at Mr. Zaman’s restaurant three weeks before Mr. Wilson’s death. Like him, she had been assured her meal would not contain nuts, prosecutors said.

Mr. Zaman was convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence in the death of Mr. Wilson, and six food safety offenses. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

He had a “reckless and cavalier attitude to risk,” the prosecutor, Richard Wright, told a jury at Teesside Crown Court.

“Time and again he ignored the danger and did not protect his customers,” Mr. Wright said at trial, adding that Mr. Zaman had “put profit before safety, and he cut corners at every turn.”

Mr. Zaman had said that he left his employees to run his restaurants, including ordering the ingredients and preparing the dishes, and that he was not even on the premises when the deadly curry was prepared.

Shaun Page, a detective inspector on the case, said that Mr. Zaman had a duty to serve safe food to his customers and that Mr. Wilson’s death was “totally avoidable.”

According to Allergy UK, a nonprofit, about 1 percent of Britons are allergic to peanuts. Up to 1.3 percent of Americans are allergic — as many as four million people, according to Food Allergy Research and Education. TheCenters for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that the number of children with food allergies is rising.

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