Megan Lee allergy death: Takeaway bosses jailed after schoolgirl dies from eating one of their meals

The two men were sentenced over the manslaughter of Megan Lee, who suffered an allergic reaction to the meal she ordered.

Megan, of Lancashire, had a severe nut allergy and died from an asthma attack after she ate food from the Royal Spice takeaway.

The teen and her friend had ordered the meal online from JustEat two days earlier and had written “prawns, nuts” in the comments and notes section of the order.

But the delivered meal, which included an onion bhaji, a seekh kebab and a peshwari naan, was later found to have the “widespread presence” of peanut protein.

Takeaway owner Kuddus and manager Rashid, both Bangladeshi nationals, were found guilty by a jury last month following a two-week trial.

Kuddus received an additional eight month sentence, to run concurrently, for two food safety offences. Rashid was given 10 months in custody, also to run concurrently, for the same offences.

Sentencing the pair, Mrs Justice Yip told them Megan was responsible enough to highlight her allergies when placing the order but “sadly the same responsibility was not at your end”.

She said: “The Royal Spice had no systems or processes to manage allergen control. The menu contained no information about allergens. No record was kept of the ingredients used in dishes.

“In short, it appears that no one at the takeaway had any way of knowing what allergens were in the food supplied.”

The judge added: “It is hoped that the message is heard that those who fail to take proper care in the supply of food to the public will face significant custodial sentences if a death results.

“Like Mr and Mrs Lee, I hope that this tragic case adds to the growing awareness in the food industry of what can happen if allergies are not taken seriously.

“Those who fail to heed the warnings and who continue to flout food safety regulations may find the courts taking a harsher view in the future.”

Before the men were sentenced on Wednesday, Megan’s parents, Gemma and Adam, told a judge how the death of their “best friend” had left them devastated.

They said they used to eat around the table as a family, but they have only done that once since Megan died because they “broke down” over her empty chair.

The couple said they feel like they have been given a “life sentence”, but they are committed to preventing allergy-related deaths.

In a statement read out in court, they said: “Megan was a bright, articulate, kind and caring daughter. We feel heartbreak of her missing so many milestones.

“She will never get married, never turn 16, never get to see her little brother grow up, or go to her prom.

“She loved studying and her head was always in a book. She loved school. She was petite and all her friends towered over her, but she took it all in her stride.

“Megan loved music and we will miss watching her perform on stage. She loved to sing but will never reach her ambition to be an actress in the West End.

“We loved the time we had with Megan and the impact she had on our lives – and everyone she met.

“We haven’t learnt to deal with her loss yet and never will. It’s put a strain on our marriage and our life.

“We used to eat around the table as a family but have only managed to do that once since Megan died.

“We broke down because of the empty chair.

“Our trust is broken with food and at times the pain has felt too much.

“We have a life sentence but hope our story will stop others going through the same.

“We’ll continue working with the anaphylaxis campaign and trading standards.

“Megan was our princess.”

Mrs Justice Yip said Megan’s parents had shown “dignity and courage” throughout the court process.

She said: “They do not seek retribution but want their story to serve as a warning to others in the food industry so that other families will not be forced to experience the indescribable loss that they have suffered.

“She (Megan) had made her family proud throughout her short life and would have continued to do so. She had everything to live for. No sentence I impose can begin to reflect the loss of Megan’s life.”

She accepted that the defendants – both fathers – had expressed genuine remorse and that neither meant to kill the teenager.

She told them: “Neither of you actually foresaw the death of anyone. It never occurred to you that you would be responsible for the death of a young girl. Quite simply, you never gave the risk of a customer dying because of an allergy a moment’s thought.

“You must now live with the guilt of what you have done and the suffering you have caused Megan’s family and to your own families. All of this is a tragedy that could so easily have been avoided had you exercised the proper care to be expected of those who serve food to the public.”

During the trial, the court heard Megan’s death was a “disaster waiting to happen” as there was a “litany of failings” in the kitchen, including poor hygiene and no records of ingredients kept.

Megan and her friend had ordered the meal on December 30, 2016, and she died two days later on January 1, 2017.

She had an immediate reaction after eating the kebab and naan, and went on to suffer irreversible brain damage.

The teen was initially joking and chatting as she suffered the reaction, and her friend’s mother gave her liquid antihistamine.

But her condition rapidly deteriorated after she arrived at her family’s home in Oswaldtwistle.

She went to her bedroom and soon made a panicked call for help from her mother as she struggled to breathe.

In a statement read to the court last month, Megan’s mum told how she desperately tried to save her daughter, who stopped breathing.

Mrs Lee said: “Her lips were turning purple and she a losing colour. I rang the ambulance and was on the phone for nine minutes whilst Megan was slumped against the wall.

“I laid her down on the floor and had to do mouth to mouth. Her eyes were closed and I then heard her gasp and realised that she was not breathing.

“I started to do compressions as the paramedics arrived. They shocked Megan and went downstairs so they could work on her.”

In her statement to the court last month, Mrs Lee said the family always took precautions and checked ingredients to protect Megan from an allergic reaction.

She said they always ordered takeaway food from the same place and they never allowed her to eat sauce from a takeaway.

Megan’s mum added: “She has previously eaten all of the items ordered, expect for the peshwari naan, and has never suffered an allergic reaction. I don’t believe Megan would know what a peshwari naan is.

“If Megan thought something had nuts in it, she would not eat it.”

Five days after Megan’s death, the restaurant was immediately closed down following an inspection by Trading Standards and environmental hygiene officers.

Giving evidence, Rashid, of Haslingden, had claimed he was a delivery driver at the restaurant at the time.

He was also found guilty of failing to discharge a general duty of employers, contrary to the Health and Safety at Work Act, and another count of failing to put in place, implement and maintain a permanent procedure or procedures in contravention of European Union food safety regulations.

Kuddus, of Blackburn, had already pleaded guilty to those two charges on behalf of himself and on behalf of Royal Spice Takeaway Ltd, trading as Royal Spice Takeaway.

The owner, who is said not to speak English, chose not to give evidence during the trial.

Both defendants were bailed by Mrs Justice Yip after they were convicted on October 26, but she told them to prepare for a custodial sentence ahead of Wednesday’s hearing.

The pair had denied manslaughter by gross negligence.

Megan’s parents have called for other food businesses operating “in such a deplorable and ignorant manner” to learn from the verdicts and “not play Russian roulette with precious lives”.

In a statement read outside court last month, they said: “Our lives will never be the same. The loss of our beautiful daughter has completely devastated us.

“Megan’s positive presence and infectious smile will forever be missed.

“It breaks our hearts that Megan didn’t get the chance to sit her GCSE exams, something she had worked so incredibly hard for, to celebrate her 16th birthday or go to the school prom with her friends.

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