What We Learned From the James Atkinson Inquest: Beware Restaurant Delivery Apps

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An inquest is being held into the death of a man presumably from anaphylaxis he suffered after he took a few bites of a pizza that was ordered via a home delivery app.

23-year-old James Atkinson, who had a known peanut allergy, ordered a pizza via the Deliveroo app from the Dadyal restaurant in Newcastle, UK where he had ordered pizza before.

He was unaware that the restaurant had swapped peanut flour for the almond flour they usually used.

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An hour after eating the pizza, Atkinson was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary where he died at 9.21pm. His parents did not arrive in time to see their son in his last moments.

Stuart and Jill Atkinson, James’ parents, called for clearer displays of allergens at a pre-inquest review into his death at Newcastle Coroner’s Court.

Mr Atkinson 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.

Ms Atkinson called for:

… 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. [Sadly she will] never know if that would have saved James, but it might have done.

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Mr Atkinson went on to describe his son:

He was eating dinner with a few of his flat mates in Newcastle where they lived. We didn’t even get to say goodbye before his heart stopped. He died alone, without his mum, dad and family with him.

He was a clever boy; he had graduated from Newcastle University after studying computer science. How could this have happened to him when he was always so careful? There will always be a hole in our hearts without James.

Dadyal owner Gulfam Ulhaq said his staff were “in shock” after being told of James’ death, according to the BBC.

Deliveroo said in a statement:

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 cooperate 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.

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We at SnackSafely.com send our heartfelt condolences to the Atkinson family who are reliving an unthinkable tragedy in court. It is our hope that the conclusion of the inquest will bring some measure of closure to the loss of their son and allow them the space to grieve in private.

We agree wholeheartedly with their statements: Food delivery apps should explicitly require users to declare whether they suffer from food allergies and if they do, require them to forgo using the app and instruct them to call the establishment directly.

We also agree that takeout orders from restaurants should bear warnings of the top allergens that are used in the restaurant and should provide a complete ingredient list for each dish. This could be accomplished with preprinted stickers for each dish or a printout provided separately or printed on the bill.

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We encourage our readers with food allergies to avoid using home delivery apps or to call the restaurant before ordering. It is imperative that you speak to the management to ensure that your food is prepared without your allergens of concern in a manner that prevents cross-contact with allergens from other dishes. If the management is unable or unwilling to accommodate your needs or is not taking your request with all seriousness, do not order from them!


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Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom is CEO and "Blogger in Chief" of SnackSafely.com.

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