13th September 2019
The Coroner has ended the inquest into the death of Owen Carey and has delivered her narrative verdict.
The Anaphylaxis Campaign would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family of Owen Carey, who died aged 18 following a meal at Byron Burger in the O2 in Greenwich on the 22nd April 2017. Owen ate a skinny chicken burger which he believed was free from his allergens as he was reassured by the wording on the menu, which did not mention buttermilk or allergens, however the chicken had been marinated in buttermilk.
Owen was known to have unstable asthma, multiple food allergies including to milk and wheat.
Members of the Anaphylaxis Campaign were personally in attendance at the Inquest in London to offer support to Owen’s family and understand the lessons that can be learnt from his tragic death. We wish to make it clear that the Anaphylaxis Campaign are not legal experts.
Dr Robert Boyle, consultant paediatric allergist at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, who was the expert allergist at the inquest, called for a better understanding of fatal food anaphylaxis and the setup of a national register. The Anaphylaxis Campaign whole heartedly supports this as we believe lessons can and must be learnt from tragic deaths related to anaphylaxis.
In the UK, food businesses must provide information about any of 14 major allergens when they are used as ingredients in the food and drink they provide. The way the information is communicated to the customer depends on what kind of business they are (e.g. retail or catering), and how the food is presented. The rules differ depending on whether the food they sell is:
- Prepacked (for example, labelled food sold at retail)
- Non-prepacked/loose food (for example food sold in restaurants and takeaways, or packed at the customer’s request, such as at in-store bakery and delicatessen counters).
- Prepacked for direct sale (for example, sandwiches prepared and wrapped on-site in a cafe)
All food for sale is covered under the EU Food Information to Consumers Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011, commonly known as EU FIC Regulation. This EU legislation has been implemented into UK law, via the Food Information Regulations 2014.
For more information, please click here.
The role of the coroner and purpose of an inquest
We understand that the extensive media coverage of the inquest has raised several questions from our supporters about the role of the coroner and purpose of an inquest.
A coroner is appointed by a local authority and investigates deaths reported to them to find out who has died and how, when, and where they died. An inquest is a public court hearing held by the coroner to discover the facts about the circumstances of someone’s death. There are a very limited number of specific legal terms used to record cause of death.
The coroner decides who should be called to give evidence as a witness. If a witness lives in England or Wales, they must attend if they are asked; if they live abroad, they do not have to attend.
An inquest is different from other types of court hearing because there is no prosecution or defence. The purpose of an inquest is to establish the relevant facts and cannot blame someone for someone’s death. The coroner or jury cannot find a person or organisation criminally responsible for someone’s death. For legal reasons, therefore, we cannot comment on certain aspects of any inquest.
The Ministry of Justice has produced a booklet called a ‘Guide to Coroner Services’ and if you are interested in the coronial process, you may find it helpful to read: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guide-to-coroner-services-and-coroner-investigations-a-short-guide.
If you have any further questions, please contact the Helpline on 01252 542029 or email [email protected].