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Parents of man who died after eating pizza call for better allergen warnings

The inquest into the death of James Atkinson is due to open on Tuesday (Leigh Day/PA)
The inquest into the death of James Atkinson is due to open on Tuesday (Leigh Day/PA)

The parents of a 23-year-old man who died of a suspected severe allergic reaction after ordering a pizza are calling for better allergen displays to be put on takeaway boxes.

James Atkinson died on July 10 2020 after ordering a takeaway pizza from the Dadyal Restaurant in Newcastle, according to Leigh Day, his family’s solicitors.

Mr Atkinson, from Leeds, had a known allergy to peanuts, and his family have been told he might have suffered a severe allergic reaction.

A pre-inquest review into his death is due to open on Tuesday at Newcastle Coroners Court.

Gulfam Ulhaq, believed to have been the restaurant owner, told the BBC in 2020 that the order was placed online through Deliveroo and the website contained “very clear” information regarding allergens and food hygiene.

At the time, the “restaurant notes” section for Dadyal had a “cross-contamination notice” for peanuts, Deliveroo sources have said.

Mr Atkinson’s parents, who said their son was “conscientious” about checking ingredients, want clearer displays of allergens to prevent a similar incident from happening to someone else.

His father Stuart told the Sunday Times: “We’d like to see a simple system where it comes up with a tick box before you make the order — do you have an allergy, yes or no? If you tick yes then it instructs you to contact the restaurant by telephone.

“Allergy information is always hidden away. It needs to be up front.”

His mother Jill added: “What everybody needs is a clear, full list of ingredients on every item on a takeaway menu and a sticker on the takeaway box saying the allergens it contains. We’ll never know if that would have saved James, but it might have done… we just don’t want this to happen to another family.”

Mr Atkinson moved to study computer science at Newcastle University, and after graduating he remained in the city where he lived with friends.

Deliveroo stock
James ordered his food from the Deliveroo app (Niall Carson/PA)

The Atkinson family are represented by Thomas Jervis, partner at Leigh Day. They have instructed barristers Craig Hassall QC and Helena Spector from Park Square Barristers Chambers.

They are raising funds for their case through CrowdJustice.

The restaurant was immediately suspended from Deliveroo in July 2020 following Mr Atkinson’s death, but remained on other food platforms, until environmental health officials and police confirmed it could trade again later that month.

Neither Deliveroo nor the delivery rider were suspects in the case, sources said.

Deliveroo urges customers to contact restaurants directly to ask about ingredients and cooking methods, which are displayed in the “restaurant info” section, and its “allergens, hygiene rating and more” section, which are at the top of its menus.

Restaurants can also add allergens notes to be displayed under each product. For restaurants where menus and ingredients change regularly, staff are encouraged to be trained to answer allergy queries over the phone.

Nut stock
James Atkinson’s parents said he was ‘conscientious’ about checking ingredients (Victoria Jones/PA)

According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), food businesses must inform customers if any products they provide contain any ingredients from a list of 14 allergens.

It adds that takeaways must make allergen information available before food is bought and when it is delivered.

A Deliveroo spokesperson said: “This is a tragedy and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the young man who so sadly passed away.

“Deliveroo has been in contact with the police, who confirmed that the company has acted properly at all times, and continues to comply fully with this investigation. The company will co-operate in full with the coroner’s inquest and will share all information requested by the coroner.

“We are committed to doing all we possibly can to assist this investigation and our hearts go out to all those involved.”

Mr Ulhaq told the BBC in 2020: “I was really shocked when police told me he had passed away and that he was only 23 years old. It is very, very sad. We are all in shock.”

Dadyal has been contacted for further comment.