Harun Rashid (left) and Mohammed Abdul Kuddus arriving at court in Manchester. (AP)
A deliveryman and the owner of an Indian restaurant in Britain have been found guilty of manslaughter for delivering food to a teenage girl who died from the effects of a peanut allergy.
The teenager, Megan Lee, who was 15 at a time, suffered a reaction after ordering from her local takeout in Lancashire, in northern England, in late 2016, according to local news reports. She suffered irreversible brain damage after the allergy attack and died on Jan. 1, 2017.
On Friday, a jury at Manchester Crown Court found two men, Mohammed Abdul Kuddus, 40, and Harun Rashid, 38, guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence in Lee’s death. Court reports said that Kuddus had been the owner of the restaurant, and Rashid the deliveryman.
According to the prosecution, the restaurant, the Royal Spice Takeaway in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, had no systems or conditions in place to protect customers with allergies.
“Their manifest failures and complete disregard for the safety of customers was astonishing,” Karen Tonge of the Crown Prosecution Service told the British network ITV after the trial.
Lee knew about her allergy, and her friend had included a warning with the food order, the court was told. Still, an investigation found “widespread presence” of peanut protein in the meal, which included an onion bhaji, a seekh kebab and a Peshawari naan.
Speaking outside the court on Friday, Lee’s father, Adam, told reporters, “We urge all food businesses to improve their standards in food safety and take allergies seriously.”
“Do not guess, do not play ignorant; do not play Russian roulette with precious lives,” he added.
The conviction comes amid increased scrutiny about food allergies and product labeling after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, who had a severe allergy to sesame seeds, collapsed and died in July 2016 after eating a Pret a Manger sandwich while on her way to a vacation in France with her father.
The artichoke, olives and tapenade baguette that she ate had sesame seeds baked into its dough but did not say so on the label.
Michael Gove, the British secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, has pledged to change the rules on allergen labeling after meeting with Ednan-Laperouse’s parents this past week.
The Royal Spice Takeaway closed for a while but has reopened under new management. Before it closed, the restaurant had a modest number of reviews, mostly generally good, on TripAdvisor.
The two men in the case, who had pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charge, were released on bail pending sentencing on Nov. 7. After the verdict, the judge warned the men to expect jail time.