Balti owner prosecuted over peanuts in food

The former owner of a balti house which served a meal advertised as 'peanut-free' but which contained enough of a trace to give someone with an allergy an anaphylactic reaction has been sentenced.

Reza Ul-Islam, the former director of B68 Indian Cuisine Ltd, pleaded guilty to food offences on 7 February 2019.

Ul-Islam, aged 26, from Birmingham, was sentenced to a 12-month community order with supervision and 150 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay the prosecution costs of £1,995 plus a victim surcharge of £85.

In passing sentence, magistrates said they were taking this matter very seriously because Ul-Islam had been “playing with human life” and it was his “lucky day” that custody was not the sentence as he had pleaded guilty and had no other offences.

Sandwell Council's trading standards team uncovered the potentially fatal situation in December 2017 when officers were testing food served in takeaways and restaurants to check bosses were complying with strict rules on food allergens and food labellingTests discovered the lamb korma and rice dish which was sold as being peanut-free actually contained over 40g per kg of peanuts. Experts said this would easily be enough to cause an anaphylactic reaction – which can result in death – in someone allergic to peanuts.

Officers said it was not known how the meal became contaminated with peanut as Ul-Islam had failed to co-operate with trading standards during the investigation. 

Forty premises were visited across Sandwell between September and December 2017 and three sold meals that contained dangerous levels of peanuts. A further two meals tested contained trace levels of peanut but not at a high enough level to cause a reaction.

Businesses are legally required to warn customers about any allergens in food. Sandwell Council's cabinet member for public health and protection Councillor Elaine Costigan said:

"We've all heard of the tragic but thankfully rare circumstances of people who have died or become seriously ill after they’ve eaten something without knowing it contains a substance they are allergic to.

“Our trading standards team does vital work in keeping us all safe when we’re eating out and I want to congratulate them for bringing this prosecution. I dread to think of the consequences had someone with a peanut allergy eaten this dish.”

It’s believed that Sandwell was the only authority in the UK to employ an officer to specifically advise businesses on their responsibilities around allergens when new regulations came in in 2014, as well as offering allergy packs to test food and low cost training.

Checks in Sandwell found a lower level of failure to declare allergens than in the rest of the country and bosses say they are pleased at the generally high level of knowledge shown by the majority of businesses.


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