A year ago March, Chloe Marie Gilbert was out shopping with a friend in Bath, England when she ordered from Al Falafel, a local takeout.
Soon after eating her meal, she began experiencing symptoms of anaphylaxis including shortness of breath. She collapsed and died at the mall despite receiving medical attention from emergency medical responders.
The subsequent investigation by local authorities established that Chloe, who had a milk allergy for which she carried an epinephrine auto-injector, suffered a severe reaction from eating the kebab purchased at Al Falafel. The investigation also determined that there were no requisite signs or menu advisories warning patrons of the possibility of cross-contact.
Appearing at Bath Magistrates Court on Wednesday, Riad Benotman, director of Al Falafel, admitted to an offense of failing to identify the food he served as hazardous to customers with food sensitivities and failing to ensure the documentation with respect to allergens was kept up to date. He was ordered to pay a total of £2,880 ($3800).
In sentencing him, 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.
Our deepest sympathies go out to the Gilbert family and we wish them strength and solace during this time when their daughter is once again in the news for doing nothing more than what most other 15 year-old girls routinely do.
As we often do when we report a loss to the food allergy community, we discuss strategies to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.
We’re not sure whether Chloe was carrying her epinephrine at the time of exposure or whether it was promptly administered, but we urge you to always make sure your child coping with food allergies always carries two epinephrine auto-injectors with them everywhere, every time they leave home, and is trained when and how to use them.
We also recommend that you train your child’s family and friends to recognize the symptoms of anaphylaxis and how to properly operate your child’s auto-injectors, keeping in mind that devices from different manufacturers are operated differently.
Last but not least, consider prescreening food establishments your teen might visit to ensure their procedures for avoiding cross-contact meet your comfort level. Restrict your teen to visiting those establishments only and instruct your them to warn the server of their allergies each and every time they visit.