Coroner to support Owen's Law legislation after James Atkinson inquest

A coroner advocated for legislative changes requiring eateries to disclose ingredients after James Atkinson's fatal allergic reaction to a takeaway in 2020. Mr Atkinson's allergic reaction was caused by eating less than a single slice of chicken tikka masala pizza from Newcastle restaurant Dadyal.

Assistant Coroner Karen Dilks, while expressing her condolences, announced her intention to advocate for Owen's Law, aimed at mandating allergen listing by restaurants, though she did not recommend changes for food delivery services.

Mrs Wilks continued by saying she plans to contact the Department of Health to recommend that general practitioners conduct frequent reviews of patients with allergies and emphasise the necessity of carrying EpiPens for emergency use.

Jill and Stuart Atkinson urged leaders of Deliveroo, UberEats, and Just Eat to collaboratively explore additional measures for enhanced consumer protection. They emphasised the enduring memory of James, stating that "James will be forever in our hearts. Saving even one life through these efforts would be significant."

In July 2020, Mr. Atkinson and his flatmates placed an order through Deliveroo for various dishes from Dadyal restaurant in Newcastle, including three chicken tikka masala pizzas. Unaware that the pizza contained peanuts, Mr. Atkinson experienced a severe allergic reaction shortly after consumption and tragically passed away in the hospital due to anaphylaxis linked to the peanut content in the curry.

Coroner Karen Dilks concluded the inquest by summarising that Mr. Atkinson used an app to order his meal, didn't directly inform the restaurant of his allergy, and lacked an EpiPen when symptoms arose. She noted the restaurant's failure to disclose its use of a nut powder, predominantly peanut, in their chicken tikka masala, despite listing other nuts like coconut, almond, and cashew. The inquest highlighted that while Deliveroo prompts users to notify restaurants of allergies, Mr. Atkinson had not contacted Dadyal to inform them of his.

Mr Atkinson's flatmates said that night he had used search engines to check if tikka masala contained nuts. He informed his friends that he knew something was wrong with the pizza straight after his first mouthful, as his lips began to tingle.

As his flatmates searched for his EpiPen, unfortunately without success, Mr Atkinson was able to call for an ambulance. Once paramedics had arrived at the shared accommodation in Jesmond, within minutes he had asked the team: "Am I going to die?"

Mr Atkinson was rushed to the Royal Victoria Infirmary as he became very unwell very quickly, but unfortunately efforts to save him were in vain.

The inquest was told that Dadyal restaurant in Howard Street, Newcastle, has now been closed for almost two years.

James Cooper, Deputy Director of Policy at the Food Standards Agency said: "We have now written to Ministers in England and Wales and the Permanent Secretary in Northern Ireland and we have contacted counterparts at Food Standards Scotland to discuss the Board's position as the Board would like to see them take this forward on a four-country basis.

"Meanwhile, we will provide guidance and support to business so that we can quickly start to make improvements that will be helpful for people with food hypersensitivities when they are eating out."

The tragic case of Mr Atkinson only highlights further the need for accurate display of ingredients and allergens on all food establishment's menus. With Owen's Law looming, Allergen Checker are here to ensure you are ready for the legislation change. Contact us today to discuss how we can help avoid further tragic cases like Mr Atkinson's.