Food shops need to take allergies seriously

Published: 08 October 2019

A promising student who was hospitalised after a severe allergic reaction to a peri peri chicken meal, wants more food outlets to take action on the hidden dangers in food they serve.

Ihfaz Islam was half way through a takeaway meal when his mouth started to tingle.

His mother had been assured the meal she ordered over the phone for her son from Saqi Grill did not contain any dairy products which Ihfaz has a life threatening allergy to.

Once he realised he was having a reaction to the meal, which it was later discovered the chicken had been marinated in yoghurt, he took anti-histamine to counteract the symptoms.

However, things quickly got worse with hives breaking out and Ihfaz had difficulty speaking. He reacted by self-administering a prescription epi-pen and used his inhaler.

He said: “I started to get a bit worried when the reaction became severe. My throat was tightening up and I was wheezy and dizzy and my lips had turned blue.”

The then 17-year-old’s mum Jubeda phoned for an ambulance and he was taken to hospital suffering anaphylactic shock.

The A level student at Windsor Boys’ School, who wants to study medicine at university, reported the incident to the council’s Trading Standards department after conducting research online in. He said he wanted to prevent the same thing happening to another person who might not be as fortunate to make a full recovery.

Now 18, Ihfaz said: “There is a huge difference between someone having an intolerance to food and being allergic. An allergy can kill and should not be taken lightly.

“As a family we thought we were being overly cautious but it can happen so easily and I don’t want someone else to have to go through such a distressing experience.”

Ihfaz added: “I am usually very particular about where I eat and make sure to emphasise the severity of my allergies to staff.”

Mum Jubeda said: “We always just ordered takeaway food on the odd occasion from the same places but we were recommended Saqi Grill.

“I told them when I ordered over and over about Ihfaz’s allergy and the person on the phone shouted out to someone else who said no dairy in the peri meal.

“Seeing him have a reaction so quickly made me so anxious and I called for an ambulance.”

Slough trading standards pursued a prosecution against Saqi Grill and Catering Limited, Chalvey Road West, its director Akbar Ali, 43, of Thornholme Close, Leicester, and the shop manager Abdul Rauf, 42, of Ragstone Road, Slough.

Judge Kirsty Real, sitting at Reading Crown Court in August, handed each defendant an 18 week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, ordered each to complete 120 hours of unpaid community work and pay £400 costs. The company was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £4000 costs.

Both defendants and the company admitted a total of three counts of selling unsafe food containing allergens on 15 March, 29 October and 16 November, 2018, and a single charge, on 15 March, of incorrectly describing doner kebab meat as lamb when it also contained beef and chicken. Ihfaz suffered anaphylactic shock after eating the meal on 29th October 2018.

Dean Cooke, a senior trading standards officer, advised food servers it was safer to politely decline an allergy sufferer’s order if they were not sure about any of the ingredients in any dish.

He added that prosecutions are the last resort and the department would prefer owners and managers call the department and ask for advice and help.

He said: “This is a life and death situation for people with allergies who can risk their lives going out to eat. All we are asking is for businesses to be aware of what is in the food they are serving to customers.”

Cllr Pavitar K. Mann, cabinet member for planning and regulation, said: “Thank you to Ihfaz for sharing his horrifying story which could have had such fatal consequences if he had not reacted so quickly.

“This young man looks like he has a bright future ahead of him in medicine and that could have all been taken away by an irresponsible food outlet which did not care to take the expert advice of the council’s Trading Standards department.

“I would urge any food business unsure about their procedures, who would like help and advice, to contact Trading Standards – they are here to help and prevent a potential tragedy.”