Dad of son, 18, who died from Byron Burgers allergic reaction wants law changed
The dad of an 18-year-old boy who died an agonising death after suffering an allergic reaction to a chicken Byron Burgers meal is calling for an urgent law change as lockdown eases.
Owen Carey died from anaphylactic shock after a meal out to celebrate his 18th birthday, after neither the menu nor serving staff at the chain outlet warned him the grilled chicken had been soaked in buttermilk.
The teen, who had told a waiter he was allergic to dairy, suffered a fatal reaction at the chain’s O2 Arena restaurant in Greenwich.
A coroner ruled that Owen was ‘misled’ by staff at the restaurant in south London where he dined with his girlfriend, sister, and her family in April 2017.
Owen, of Crowborough, East Sussex, collapsed less than an hour after first experiencing the reaction to the food.
It later emerged the group had chosen Byron because of concerns that the food in their original choice of restaurant was cooked in nut oil.
Owen ate grilled chicken and chips after checking with a waiter, but only ate half the meal as he thought the meal tasted odd.
He began suffering stomach cramps and feeling out of breath after leaving the restaurant and getting on the Tube with his girlfriend.
The couple got off the London Underground and begged staff at the London Eye for a life-saving Epipen, but was told no one had the adrenaline shot device.
He collapsed and was rushed to hospital but died with his girlfriend by his side.
The coroner ruled that Owen had asked waiting staff about allergies but the information was not passed on to the kitchen.
The hearing was also told by experts that while Owen had not brought his Epipen on the trip, the device could not have saved him as his allergic reaction was too severe.
Speaking to The Sun, Owen’s family urged a new law to force restaurants to print allergen information on their menus as May 17 lockdown changes bring a return to dining indoors in England.
The youngster’s dad Paul Carey said his son was well-versed in warning serving staff about his allergies, and had done so that horrific evening.
“Had the waiter listened, or the buttermilk been listed on the menu, Owen would be with us today,” Mr Carey said.
Owen’s sister Emma said the siblings’ dad let out a heartbreaking scream when she was forced to phone him to tell him his son had died.
The family then had to suffer the trauma of viewing their beloved Owen’s body in hospital, swollen with the allergic reaction and with tubes still stuck down his throat from medics’ attempts to save him.
The family has proposed legislation called Owen’s Law, which would also see wait-staff required to ask about allergies before taking orders.
Mr Carey said the family want restaurants’ menus forced to list allergens and wait staff mandated to initiate discussions with customers about any food allergies.
“It’s not difficult, it’s not rocket science and it will save lives,” he said.
Mr Carey described how he still constantly cleans a framed photo of his son in his memory.
“I’m always wiping it and talking to him, because it’s the only contact I have. We miss Owen every day and we just want allergies to be taken seriously, so another family doesn’t suffer the way we have.”
Speaking outside court after the 2019 inquest, Byron Burgers chief executive Simon Wilkinson had said in a statement: “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.
“It is a matter of great regret and sadness that our high standards of communicating with our customers were not met during Owen’s visit.
“We believe we always did our best to meet our responsibilities but we know that this will be of no comfort to Owen’s family.
“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.”
Owen’s death came after another family had lost their teen daughter in another high-profile food allergy tragedy.
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, collapsed died after eating a Pret a Manger sandwich on board a flight to Nice in July 2016.