North East restaurant fined for serving peanut dish to nut allergy sufferer

The boy began to feel unwell after consuming the meal.
The boy began to feel unwell after consuming the meal.

A Stockton Borough Indian restaurant was hit with a bill for more than £5,000 after serving a customer, who suffers from a nut allergy, a dish containing peanuts.

Jolsha Limited, of 7 Harland Place, Norton has been ordered to pay a total of £5,329 at Teesside Magistrates’ Court after its director, Shamim Ahmed, pleaded guilty on behalf of the company to food safety offences.

Ahmed admitted two offences contrary to food safety, relating to a dish served to a teenage customer.

District Judge Harrison imposed a £3,000 fine for one of the breaches with no separate penalty for the three other offences.

Jolsha Limited was also told to pay the victim £500 in compensation and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,829.

The court heard how a boy, aged 17, was served a chicken bhuna dish at the restaurant during a meal with his parents on April 26 last year.

The boy's parents explained to the waiter that their son was allergic to peanuts and the manager assured them that only the masala dishes were made with nuts.

Later that evening he became unwell and was admitted to hospital to be treated for anaphylaxis.

His parents reported the situation to Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Trading Standards Team, who carried out an investigation which involved the examination of the same meal by a public analyst. Tests revealed the meal contained a small amount of peanut protein.

When Trading Standards officers were shown ingredients in the storeroom at the restaurant they discovered a powder the chef described as “almond powder” was labelled as “Ground Nut Mix (Peanut and Almond)” and the chef confirmed the same product was in an open container in the kitchen.

The public analyst confirmed an opened container of peanut powder would contaminate other ingredients in the food preparation area.

Simon Catterall, mitigating, said Jolsha Limited apologised to the victim, co-operated with the investigation and staff attended the food allergy awareness training courses recommended by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council.

He said there were no other food safety issues in the restaurant and steps had been taken to ensure peanut was no longer on the premise.

Coun Steve Nelson, cabinet member for Access, Communities and Community Safety, said: “We should all be able to enjoy our food in safety when we go out to eat regardless of whether we suffer from a food allergy.

“It is really important that food outlets fully understand food allergies and what allergens are present in their foods to prevent harming their customers and this case is a very strong reminder of that.”