The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has unveiled a series of measures aimed at protecting people with food allergies and intolerances, following the conclusion of an inquest into the death of a teenager who suffered a fatal reaction to a Byron burger on his 18th birthday.
Owen Carey, who had a severe allergy to dairy, died after eating a chicken burger marinated in buttermilk at a Byron at the O2 in Greenwich in 2017. An inquest heard that the ingredient was not listed on the "reassuring" menu and that Carey, who made staff aware of his allergies, was not informed about the presence of the ingredient.
Now the FSA has revealed that it discussed a range of new measures on allergies at a board meeting in Belfast yesterday, days after the inquest closed.
The actions include:
• issuing a "clear and easy-to-follow" aide-memoire for environmental health officers and trading standards officers which is focused specifically on the action they should be taking within business in relation to food allergies;
• publishing an urgent update of the ‘Safer Food Better Business' guide, including a review of the allergens information included;
• at the end of the year, launching an awareness campaign to remind businesses and consumers about how to keep people with food allergies safe;
• implementing a pilot project to develop better reporting of allergic reactions;
• focusing on the concerns raised by Carey's case at the next Industry Leadership Forum on food hypersensitivity in November;
• meeting with Byron and the local authorities to discuss the detail of Owen's case and lessons learned;
• commissioning a full root cause analysis of the Byron incident to ensure that lessons are shared.
Simon Wilkinson, Byron's chief executive, said in a statement after the inquest: "We take allergies extremely seriously and have robust procedures in place, and although those procedures were in line with all the rules and guidelines, we train our staff to respond in the right way.
"We have heard what the coroner said about the need to communicate about allergies and it is clear that the current rules and requirements are not enough and the industry needs to do more.
"We will make it our priority to work with our colleagues across the restaurant industry to ensure that standards and levels of awareness are improved."
The FSA's board meeting also considered other major public health risks, including campylobacter and the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). It said it wanted to continue efforts to tackle campylobacter in smaller food businesses, as well as expecting larger retailers to remain transparent about campylobacter levels with consumers, and to continue testing and sharing information on their campylobacter reduction programmes with the FSA.
Meanwhile, the board expressed concerns about its ability to fund the people and systems required to deliver a reformed regulatory system when it comes to food safety. In discussions on a report on how food and feed laboratories may be used in the future, the board accepted that the FSA would take a leadership role in the review but warned that it could not take ownership as it was a cross-government responsibility, requiring a "strategic partnership approach".