Restaurant owner found guilty of Gross Negligence Manslaughter following Crown Court Trial

Posted by Rory O'Driscoll, 25th May 2016
In what is being hailed as a legal first, a restaurant owner in North Yorkshire has been found guilty of Gross Negligence Manslaughter, after a jury agreed that Mohamed Zaman caused the death of Paul Wilson and should be held criminally liable for so doing. The jury accepted that Mr Zaman knowingly served a meal containing almond powder, despite Mr Wilson’s specification for ‘no nuts’ due to his peanut allergy. Mr Zaman was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment.

The Judge was highly critical of Mr Zaman, who had served another meal containing nuts to a customer with a nut allergy just weeks prior to Mr Wilson’s death. Mr Zaman had switched almond powder for a cheaper ground nut mix – which contained peanuts – and had demonstrated what was described as a “reckless and cavalier attitude to risk”putting “profit before safety“. In our view this highlights the duty of care owed to customers and that if regulations are ignored then Food Business Operators (FBOs) will be prosecuted for breaches of the food hygiene regulations and potentially for causing the customer’s death.

We would remind all FBOs of the following Guidance issued by Food Standards Agency on the Food Information for Consumers Regulation 1169/2011:

  • All mandatory allergen information, on menus or signpost statements to where it could be found, should be easily accessible and visible, and clearly legible to the consumer regardless of whether they have a food allergy or not. Businesses should review ingredients information for foods provided by them and ensure that their suppliers provide them with the necessary information to meet their obligations.
  • FBOs selling non-prepacked food through distance selling (e.g. such as food takeaway businesses which offer purchase through telephone/ internet) will need to ensure that mandatory allergen information is available to the consumer both before the purchase is concluded and at the point of delivery. The allergen information should be held in written form by the business and available in written form at some point between a consumer placing the order and taking delivery of it.
  • Where food is placed on the market by a food business free of charge (such as testers and samples, canapés served at events) or as complimentary snacks or meals (such as a plate of biscuits or chocolates at hotels, airline meals, meals served at events), information about allergenic ingredients must be provided.

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