Death by Sesame – Restaurant prosecuted - 17 March 2021
Allergy &Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA) is deeply saddened by the loss of Nathan Anderson as a result of sesame anaphylaxis in 2017. Today, we welcome the judgement of Honourable Justice Hoeben, Chief Judge at Common Law for the Supreme Court of NSW. We implore people working in the food service sector to do their best to protect people with food allergy. Samaras Lebanese and Mediterranean Restaurant in Wollongong has been fined $105,000 and ordered to pay the prosecutor’s analytical costs of $5368, with legal costs still to be finalised, after pleading guilty to a charge laid by the NSW Food Authority in the Supreme Court of NSW. The charge relate to the premises serving Nathan food containing sesame despite him declaring his allergy when ordering.
Maria Said, CEO of A&AA spoke with Nathan's wife, Nicola Anderson and family members who were at the restaurant soon after Nathan’s death. A&AA reported the anaphylaxis to NSW Food Authority who investigated the fatal reaction and then proceeded to prosecute the restaurant. Nathan did not have an EpiPen® with him.
Maria Said stressed, “Food allergies must be taken seriously by all working in food service. Staff need to be familiar with allergens in foods such as tahini containing sesame in hummus. A&AA’s Food Allergen Cards help individuals and food service staff learn what might be in a food. It's the customer's responsibility to clearly communicate their allergy and when they do, food service staff must do their best to serve them food that meets their request and will not cause them harm.” A&AA also has chef cards to help people with food allergy declare their allergy requirements clearly.
Australia's food regulations exist to protect people. People in food service must understand food law to operate safely. Through the National Allergy Strategy, we have created free online training for food service staff, All About Allergens. We have collaborated with the food service sector to make sure the resource we produced met their needs. They wanted training that was online, fast, easy and free and that’s what we launched in July of 2017. While many have done the training, we continue to hear of and report anaphylaxis as a result of food served in food service every week.
Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia is calling for food allergy training for food service staff to become mandatory just like the responsible service of alcohol (RSA) training prior to someone working in licensed premises. Restaurants, cafes, clubs, pubs and all food service facilities need to have processes in place when someone discloses a food allergy. We do not want to see any more lives lost.
Content on menu choices needs to be discussed by the person with food allergy with wait staff or even the chef. Food service businesses must know what is in their food and be able to communicate this information clearly with people that declare food allergies. People with food allergies should not be treated as an inconvenience and people who simply do not like a food should stop saying they have an allergy. We understand food service staff have many challenges but food allergy is real and must be taken seriously.
People with food allergy can die within minutes. We urge people to read labels, disclose their allergy and carry their prescribed emergency medication with them. People must follow instructions on what to do in an emergency that are on their ASCIA Action Plan.
The sentence handed down by Judge Hoeben today will hopefully be lesson to all preparing and serving food. Another needless death that could have been prevented if only simple steps were in place.
Maria Said stated, “I know Nathan's family do not want his tragic loss to be in vain. They do not want any other family living with food allergies to go through their pain. They do not want restaurant staff to live their lives knowing they caused or contributed to someone’s death. The family, like us, urge restaurants to heed people's requests when food allergy is disclosed. They must take the time needed to read labels of all components in food being served and train their staff in effective allergen management.
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Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA) www.allergyfacts.org.au
Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia‘s vision focuses on improving the quality of life of all Australians living with allergic disease by focusing on ongoing education and consumer support, by driving our mission of listening, guiding and educating Australians living with allergic disease. A&AA is the only national charity supporting Australians living with allergic disease.
A&AA has a Medical Advisory Board and is co-chair of the National Allergy Strategy (www.nationalallergystrategy.org.au) alongside peak medical organisation the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA www.allergy.org.au).
- Food allergy induced anaphylaxis has doubled in the last 10 years .
- One in 10 infants now have a food allergy  and 1 in 20 children aged 10-14 years of age have a food allergy  and 2-4% of adults .
- Hospital admissions for anaphylaxis have increased 5-fold in the last 20 years .
- Deaths from anaphylaxis in Australia have increased by 7% per year (1997-2013) .
- Those at risk of anaphylaxis live with the very real daily fear of a life-threatening severe allergic reaction. Individuals at risk of food allergy induced anaphylaxis and their carers have higher than average rates of anxiety [5-7].
- Fatalities from food-induced anaphylaxis increase by around 10% each year .
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