Teen With Dairy Allergy Dies After Eating Chicken That Had Been Marinated in Buttermilk: Coroner

Chicken marinating in buttermilk.
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A family is fighting for the law to be changed after an 18-year-old with a severe dairy allergy died on his birthday when he ate grilled chicken that had been marinated in buttermilk unbeknownst to him. 

Owen Carey had informed servers at Byron burger in London of his allergy on April 22, 2017, but was not told that the chicken burger he had ordered included buttermilk, according to assistant coroner Briony Ballard. 

In a statement released Friday with the conclusions of the investigation, Ballard suggested that Carey's was a tragedy that could have been preventable. 

“The deceased made serving staff aware of his allergies. The menu was reassuring in that it made no reference to any marinade or potential allergenic ingredient in the food selected,” said Ballard in the statement. 

“The deceased was not informed that there were allergens in the order. The food served to and consumed by the deceased contained dairy which caused the deceased to suffer a severe anaphylactic reaction from which he died."

Carey almost immediately started experiencing symptoms from ingesting the buttermilk before he eventually collapsed in his girlfriend's arms about an hour later near the London Eye, according to the BBC.

A nearby doctor attempted lifesaving measures but it was too late and Carey was pronounced dead at the hospital later that day.

The findings announced Friday came as a relief for Carey's grieving family, who had said he would have known to ask about allergens and check the menu. 

"It's simply not good enough to have a policy which relies on verbal communication between the customer and their server, which often takes place in a busy, noisy restaurant where the turnover of staff is high and many of their customers are very young," Carey's sister Emma Kocher said outside court where the findings were read. 

She added: "This leaves far too much room for error on an issue we know far too well can cost lives. We hope we can bring about change with Owen's Law for better allergen labeling in restaurants."

According to the family's lawyer, the meal was described as: "Classic Chicken - grilled chicken breast, shredded iceberg, tomato, red onion, pickles, Byron sauce."

Following the hearing, Byron chief executive Simon Wilkinson said, "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."

He continued: "It's clear current rules and requirements are not enough and the industry needs to do more — more to help customers with allergies and more to raise awareness of the risks of allergies."

Ballard, the assistant coroner, is expected to make further recommendations to prevent future deaths down the line. 

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