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Megan Lee: Two takeaway workers jailed over death of girl, 15, who suffered allergic reaction to meal

Teenager died two days after eating meal, which triggered an acute asthma attack 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 07 November 2018 14:13 GMT
Takeaway bosses guilty of manslaughter over teen's allergy death

Two takeaway bosses have been jailed for causing the death of a 15-year-old girl with a nut allergy.

Despite detailing her allergies in an online form, Megan Lee was sent a meal littered with peanut protein from the Royal Spice takeaway in Lancashire.

She suffered an acute asthma attack after eating the food and died two days later, on 1 January 2017, having suffered irreversible brain damage.

The Oswaldtwistle takeaway was shut down days later following an inspection by Trading Standards and environmental hygiene officers.

Manager Harun Rashid, 38, and Mohammed Abdul Kuddus, 40, were found guilty of unlawfully killing Megan by gross negligence.

Rashid, of Rudd Street in Haslingden, was jailed for three years on Wednesday, and Kuddus was given a two-year term.

Mrs Justice Yip told the pair, who are both Bangladeshi nationals, that 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.

15-year-old Megan Lee died on New Year’s Day 2017 after suffering a severe allergic reaction to a takeaway (PA)

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

The judge 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.”

A two-week trial at Manchester Crown Court was told of a “litany of failings” in the kitchen, including poor hygiene and no records of ingredients.

Kuddus, of Belper Street in Blackburn, received an additional eight month sentence, to run concurrently, for two food safety offences.

Rashid, who claimed he was merely a delivery driver at the restaurant at the time, was given 10 months in custody, also to run concurrently, for the same offences.

Megan ordered the meal with a friend via the Just Eat website on 30 December 2016, writing “prawns, nuts” in the comments and notes section.

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

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Vaughton, of Lancashire Police, said: “Megan’s death was the tragic consequence of the conduct of these two men. As owner and operator, Kuddus and Rashid each owed a duty of care to the public.

“The defendants gave little thought to the consequences of their actions. They showed a blatant disregard for customer safety, hazard control, food safety and hygiene. Megan’s death was a tragedy waiting to happen.”

The Royal Spice takeaway is now trading under new ownership, police said.

Megan’s parents, Adam and Gemma Lee, have called for other food businesses operating “in such a deplorable and ignorant manner” to learn from the verdicts and are working with an anaphylaxis charity.

“Do not guess, do not play ignorant, do not play Russian roulette with precious lives,” they said in a statement.

Takeaway owner Mohammed Kuddus and manager Harun Rashid at Manchester Crown Court (Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

Mrs Justice Yip supported their call, saying: “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.

“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.”

The judge praised Mr and Mrs Lee’s “dignity and courage” throughout the gruelling trial.

“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 added.

“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.”

Megan’s parents called her “our princess”, saying she was an inspiration and role model to her little brother, Owen.

“Our lives will never be the same, the loss of our beautiful daughter has completely devastated us,” they added.

“It breaks our heart 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.

“Megan didn’t get the opportunity to fulfil her ambition of working in musical theatre, to explore the world, fall in love or have children of her own. It’s these thoughts that cause us great sadness because nobody deserved it more than Megan.”

Additional reporting by PA

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