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Takeaway owner fined £5k over allergy error

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020 8:21am

By Simon Humphreys & Joe Burn

A takeaway owner from Burslem has been fined £5,000, after selling a pizza containing almond powder to a customer with a nut-allergy.

The victim who was left struggling to breathe just three bites into the pizza, had to use her Epipen medication for the first time ever, and threw up all the way to the Royal Stoke University Hospital.

Now businessman Jehangir Hussain, of Louise Street, has pleaded guilty to two charges relating to the mislabelling of food and hygiene products and one charge of ‘engaging in a commercial practice which is a misleading action containing false information’.

North Staffordshire Justice Centre heard a couple bought the chicken tikka masala pizza from Royal Spice, on Congleton Road, Butt Lane, as part of a buy-one-get-one-free deal last March.

The customer had seen an allergy warning on the menu and asked if the pizza was free from nuts because his girlfriend had a nut allergy. He was told it was made with coconut and almond powder and could be made without the almond powder.

But after just a few bites of the dish, the victim started to suffer from an itchy throat and a swollen lip and she vomited.

Lucy Daniels, prosecuting on behalf of Staffordshire County Council‘s trading standards department, said: “After about three mouthfuls of her pizza she felt something was wrong as her mouth began to feel itchy.

“Over the next five minutes she started to have stomach cramps and seemed short of breath. She had a visible lump on her lip. She became so ill she asked to use her Epipen.

“At this point she decided she wanted to go to hospital. Her partner drove her to the Royal Stoke and she continued to be sick on the way.”

The court heard the woman’s boyfriend later called the takeaway to complain.

Miss Daniels added: “He spoke to a different person on the phone. This person told him that he was lying about the incident.”

Father-of-six Hussain later called the victim’s boyfriend back, apologised and offered to cover any costs incurred during the medical alert.

An investigation found the takeaway had no system in place to correctly label allergens or ingredients. Hussain was also displaying a four-out-of-five star hygiene rating sticker despite not being rated by Newcastle Borough Council. He was later awarded one-star.

The court heard the 41-year-old had run up debts of £10,000 buying the Royal Spice.

Paul Jenkins, mitigating, said: “The defendant has very limited financial means, to the point where the business is on its knees. He’s trying to offload the premises but is having difficulties in that respect.”

He added: “He accepts that he was the person who conversed with his chef that this could be made without nut allergens. He was front-of-house, the chef at the time was assuring him that it could be made free from almond powder but there would be coconut powder. Whether there was some communication lost between him and the chef, I know not.”

Magistrates handed Hussain a 12-month community order. It includes 80-hours of unpaid work and 30 rehabilitation activity days. He was also fined £5,231.82 and ordered him to pay a £90 victim surcharge.

Magistrate Joanne Fox said: “You could have caused the life of her and her family to be destroyed. You could have caused her death.”

Following the case, Councillor Gill Heath, cabinet member responsible for trading standards, said: “Food allergy and intolerance is a growing concern for our trading standards service and something that can be life threatening.

“Our team takes the matter very seriously and works with food businesses to ensure they understand the need to know exactly what is in the food they serve and the importance of clearly labelled food products and menus.

“This successful prosecution sends out a clear sign to food businesses that we will take action against those who do not follow the simple rules to ensure food safety.

“We’ve had a number of serious incidents in Staffordshire where people have ended up in hospital as a result of being served food that has given them a severe reaction.

“Our job is to help keep people safe and if people choose a food outlet and are in any doubt about what’s in their food, they should walk out and contact us immediately.”

 

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