Food firms told to heed nut tragedy lessons

Food businesses have been urged to resist the temptation to cut costs by buying cheap ingredients after a restaurateur was found guilty of manslaughter following the death of a customer from an allergic nut reaction.

Paul Wilson explicitly asked for a nut free curry from the Indian Garden restaurant in Easingwold, North Yorkshire, but was served a dish that had been cooked with a groundnut mix containing peanuts. It emerged in court that the restaurant owner, Mohammed Zaman, had recently substituted the groundnut mix for a more expensive almond powder in an effort to cut costs. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

The British Hospitality Association said its message to businesses that may be tempted to buy cheaper ingredients was to beware the potential repercussions. “Check your ingredients and be mindful of food fraud as substitutions and adulterated products can be dangerous. If it is too good to be true, then there is probably something wrong with it,” said Dr Lisa Ackerley, food safety advisor at the BHA.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has also warned of the consequences of taking shortcuts in light of the case and urged that fast food takeaways and restaurants should not “play Russian roulette” with the public’s health.

“Our research in 2015 found that two thirds are still routinely breaking the law when it comes to providing allergen information in the right way,” said Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of RSPH. “In this case, had the correct procedures been followed we could have avoided yet another needless death. Hopefully this tragedy will provide a much-needed wake-up call for those working in the sector to comply with the law and ensure that the two million of us living with a food allergy can dine out with confidence.”

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