A Bath takeaway owner has been ordered to pay more than £2,800 following the death of a 15-year-old schoolgirl who had an allergic reaction after eating food she bought from his shop.
Riad Benotman, 37 of Crescent Gardens, Bath the only Director of Al Falafel Takeaway Ltd which runs a kebab shop in Monmouth Street, Bath appeared at Bath Magistrates Court on 20 June 2018. He pleaded guilty to an offence of failing to identify the food he served was hazardous to customers with food sensitivities and failing to ensure documentation in respect of allergies was kept up to date.
On 5 March 2017 Chloe Marie Gilbert, 15, of Seend near Melksham, Wiltshire, and her friend were shopping in Bath when they went to the Al Falafel takeaway for a takeaway lunch shortly before 2pm. Chloe chose a doner kebab and almost immediately after consuming her lunch she began to feel unwell.
While walking through the Southgate Shopping Centre with her friend, Chloe suffered an anaphylaxis reaction and began to have breathing difficulties. Chloe collapsed and, despite the arrival of medical staff, she could not be revived. Chloe sadly passed away shortly after 3.30pm.
Later on 5 March 2017 the takeaway premises were closed by Police and a joint investigation commenced with Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Trading Standards and Food Safety teams. The Council’s officers were able to obtain samples of the doner kebab meat from inside the premise. A subsequent investigation revealed that Chloe, who had a dairy allergy and carried an epi-pen at all times, had suffered a severe allergic reaction to the doner kebab she had purchased from Al Falafel takeaway. The investigation also established there were no signs in the shop alerting customers to the presence of any allergens in food and none of the menus on the premises carried any allergen information.
The Al Falafel Takeaway, which has been trading in the centre of Bath for over 10 years and employs 3 members of staff, was inspected by Council Food Safety officers on 26 September 2016. During that inspection, officers noted there were no allergen signs on display and advised Benotman that he needed to erect a sign that could clearly be seen by customers when ordering food. When interviewed in the course of the investigation Benotman accepted that he had not erected any sign as requested saying he would provide allergen information verbally if asked.
Benotman was fined £800, ordered to pay £2,000 costs and a victim surcharge of £80. In sentencing Benotman, District Judge Taylor said: “You are not before the court for causing the death of Chloe Gilbert. Nothing I can do or say will lessen the grief for Chloe’s family. What happened was a tragic situation which I’m sure will live with them forever. As you are the person who served Chloe on that day I’m satisfied that what happened will live with you forever. You were running a takeaway business and in doing so you had an obligation to comply with the law.”
Speaking after the hearing, Stuart Brown, Trading Standards Team Leader for Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: ”This a very tragic case for someone so young who had such a severe allergy and I extend my sympathies to the family. Bath & North East Somerset Council will extend every effort to prevent similar incidents happening in the future.”
“This sad case illustrates the importance for Food Businesses to provide accurate allergen information to their customers and alongside this maintain suitable Food Safety Procedures to ensure risks to public health are addressed. Our Trading Standards and Food Safety teams will continue to work together and hold businesses to account for their failures.”