Inquest Blames Lack of Restaurant Communication in Student’s Fatal Allergic Reaction

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in Food Allergy, News
Published: January 18, 2018
Shahida Shahid via Facebook.

A coroner’s inquest has ruled that the fatal allergic reaction of an 18-year-old in Manchester, England was a “death by misadventure,” caused by a lack of communication between a server and a chef.

Shahida Shahid, who had food allergies including dairy, ate a chicken burger at Almost Famous restaurant in January 2015, unaware that this burger was marinated in buttermilk. The foreman of the inquest jury told Manchester Coroner’s Court that “a lack of communication between the server and the chef led Shahida to believe she could have this meal.”

He noted that Shahida’s allergens were listed on her order, and testimony showed the university student had told the bartender, who was serving her and four friends, of her allergies. The inquest was told she’d discussed safe menu options with the bartender.

While authorities had previously decided not to press criminal charges against the chef, the Manchester Evening News reports that Almost Famous is now being investigated to determine whether it breached health and safety legislation in relation to Shahida’s death.

The ruling of “misadventure,” means her death is considered “an unintended consequence of a deliberate act.”

“The ticket order went through to the kitchen containing Shahida’s allergies, which were missed numerous times during the preparation, construction and delivery of the burger,” the inquest heard.

After she and her friends left the restaurant to go to an entertainment venue, Shahida, who also had asthma, began to experience symptoms of an allergic reaction. About an hour after eating the burger, Shahida collapsed outside. A friend, who was aware of the young woman’s allergies, administered her epinephrine auto-injector, and an ambulance was called. On January 12, 2015, a few days after the reaction, Shahida was removed from life support in hospital and died.

Shahida’s brother, Rasel Shahid, told the Evening News that the inquest showed the restaurant “didn’t take time and care for someone who had allergies.” He said while this hearing brought his family some closure, he found it “totally disgusting” that both the bartender who took the order and the sous chef who prepared his sister’s meal refused to attend the inquest. (Other restaurant staff did attend and testify.)

“Throughout the coroner’s inquest I have been struck by the dignity of Shahida’s family, who last week were remembering the third anniversary since her death, and who have had to relive over the past few days the tragic circumstances which led to her dying,” Lynne Regent, the CEO of the U.K. charity Anaphylaxis Campaign, said in a statement.

Regent, who was present at the inquest, stresses the jury’s emphasis on the lack of communication. “This is an important reminder to everyone within the catering industry that robust procedures need to be followed when people affected by food allergies draw attention to their needs when eating out.”

She also notes that an inquest in the U.K. seeks to establish the facts of a death, but does not assign blame or any criminal responsibility.

Allergic Living reminds readers of these important steps:

  • Always use an auto-injector as soon as possible if you begin to experience one or more key allergy symptoms after eating. Delay in receiving epinephrine has proved an important and recurring factor in food allergy deaths.
  • Carry two auto-injectors, since more than one is sometimes required in a reaction.
  • Call 911 after the auto-injector has been given, and don’t try to drive yourself to a hospital.