Recent Cases and News
Allergen contamination of food has been in the news recently, for all the wrong reasons. Dr Belinda Stuart-Moonlight contributed to BBC One Panorama programme ‘Takeaway Secrets Exposed’ broadcast on 12th January 2019. She also acted as an expert witness in the recent manslaughter trial of R v Kuddus and Rashid and the Royal Spice Takeaway.
Harun Rashid and Mohammed Kuddus were found guilty of unlawfully killing 15-year-old Megan Lee in October 2018. Megan, who had a severe allergy to nuts, had ordered a meal from the Royal Spice Takeaway in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, via the Just Eat website on 30th December 2016. She had indicated that prawns and nuts were to be avoided in her meal, but subsequently suffered an allergic reaction and cardiac arrest, and died on 1st January 2017.
In the subsequent investigation, a replica meal was created in the takeaway by the same staff. On analysis, this was found to contain peanut protein. Observations by the inspecting Environmental Health Officers and Trading Standards Officers identified inadequate systems and processes of allergen control. Further, the premises and equipment were dirty, mouse droppings were found, and staff lacked sufficient training in food safety.
Kuddus and Rashid were sentenced in November 2018 to two and three years respectively. Hygiene Prohibition Orders were made against each defendant, effectively barring them from running food businesses in the future.
This is the second fatal food allergy case in which Dr Belinda Stuart-Moonlight has acted as an expert witness, the first being R v Mohammed Zaman. In both cases, she was instructed by the defence teams. Similar themes of ignorance in relation to allergen control and communication, a lack of cleanliness and a lack of training ran through both cases.
Sadly, the above two cases were not the only food allergy fatalities recently. Pret a Manger appeared at West London Coroner’s Court in relation to the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died following consumption of a baguette containing sesame, to which she was allergic. An exemption within the labelling legislation meant that the ready-to-eat product did not have sufficient allergen labelling to warn of its ingredients.
If you require an expert witness investigation / report in a matter of food safety, Dr Belinda Stuart-Moonlight is considered one of the UK’s foremost experts and is happy to discuss forthcoming cases, on a confidential / no obligation basis.