An inquest was held today at Blackburn Coroner’s Court into the death of Raffi Pownall, an 11 year-old boy from Burnley, Lancashire, UK. Coroner Richard Taylor testified to the circumstances surrounding Raffi’s passing on June 8.
The postmortem examination concluded that Raffi had died of anaphylaxis, a severe, sometimes life-threatening allergic reaction. The boy was known to have an allergy to milk.
The court heard testimony that the boy’s father had given him a chocolate bar that he believed was from Morrison’s “Free From” line of chocolates which would not have contained milk ingredients.
Raffi became ill and vomited after eating a few chunks of the chocolate bar. It was then that Mr Pownall carefully reread the label.
Testified the coroner:
His [Raffi’s] father went to have a look at the chocolate bar again and checked the ingredients and found that it wasn’t in fact free from dairy, but contained milk powder as it was a gluten-free bar.
He explained that Raffi had previously vomited on occasions when he’d drank milk and then recovered. But this time he was sick and became hot.
His father grabbed his inhaler and EpiPen but it was clear they were not working and the emergency services were called.
Mr Pownall did everything he could to save his son but he was taken from his home in Marsden Road, Burnley, to Royal Blackburn Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 5.43pm.
I record a conclusion that this was an accidental death… having inadvertently ingested a small piece of chocolate containing milk powder that was believed to be ‘free from’.
Tributes from Raffi’s teachers described him as a “lovely boy who was a pleasure to teach and would be missed dearly”.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to the Pownall family for their loss, a tragedy felt by the food allergy community everywhere. We wish them much solace and strength in the coming months.
We urge you to always check the label of every food product prior to consumption by an individual with food allergies, even if you are familiar with the product and packaging. Manufacturers often change ingredients, facilities and processes and packaging for an unsafe variety often may easily be mistaken for a safe variety.