By Aasma Day
A teenager with a nut allergy suffered a fatal asthma attack shortly after eating a takeaway unaware the dishes contained peanuts, a jury has been told.
Megan Lee, 15, of Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, ate food with a friend including a peshwari naan, onion bhaji and seekh kebab ordered from the Royal Spice takeaway in her home town on December 30, 2016.
The takeway’s owner, Mohammed Abdul Kuddus, 40, and Harun Rashid, who the Crown say was effectively the manager of the shop, deny manslaughter.
The schoolgirl had suffered from asthma as a child which was controlled with preventative medication and was diagnosed with a nut allergy, including peanuts, Manchester Crown Court heard.
On the day in question, Megan went to her friend’s house and they placed an order from the Royal Spice in Hyndburn using the Just Eat takeaway site.
The menu did not include a list of ingredients, the court was told, but Megan’s friend put the words: “Nuts, prawns” in the comments/notes box of the takeaway ordering site.
Peter Wright QC, prosecuting, said staff paid no attention to the entry and prepared and delivered the meal, which tests later revealed had the “widespread presence” of peanut protein.
He told how the order included a contact telephone number and an address for delivery, but neither were contacted by the takeaway to question the meaning of the comments left in the box.
The food was delivered to Megan’s friend’s address around 6pm and when the girls began eating, Megan suffered an immediate reaction after starting the sheekh kebab.
Her friend noticed Megan appeared “lumpy” and notified her mum who gave Megan a liquid antihistamine and she began to feel better.
Shortly afterwards, Megan consumed other parts of the meal but avoided the sheekh kebab and did not seem to suffer any other adverse effects.
When Megan’s mum Gemma collected her at 6.45pm, apart from a rash on her cheek, she seemed fine and they chatted on the journey home.
Wright told the court that Megan went upstairs to get ready for bed and her mum heard her daughter shouting for her.
He said: “She found Megan struggling to breathe and in discomfort and her lips were swollen and blue.
“Within an hour of her being collected, an ambulance was called.
“Megan’s condition deteriorated rapidly and she stopped breathing and her heart stopped.”
The prosecutor told the court how despite the efforts of Megan’s mum and paramedics to resuscitate her, she suffered irreversible brain damage and was pronounced dead at hospital on the morning of January 1, 2017, when her life support was switched off.
Wright told how a post mortem later concluded Megan had suffered a fatal asthma attack, precipitated by an allergic reaction to nuts.
A police investigation was launched, as well as a joint inspection by Lancashire Trading Standards and environmental health.
What they discovered led them to serve the Union Road premises with immediate closure.
Wright told the court: “It soon became apparent there were no procedures in place in relation to allergen management and no audit of their available dishes or written records of their recipes was either made or kept.
“The premises were not clean. There was evidence of mouse droppings, dirty work surfaces and pans piled up and left unclean.”
The staff, including the head chef, were asked to make up a replica based on the meal eaten by the girls and samples were submitted and analysed.
The results confirmed the widespread presence of peanut protein present in the peshwari naan, onion bhaji and sheekh kebab.
Kuddus, of Belper Street, Blackburn, pleaded guilty to a count 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.
He also entered guilty pleas to the same offences on behalf of Royal Spice Takeaway Limited, trading as Royal Spice Takeaway.
Fellow Bangladeshi national Rashid, of Rudd Street, Haslingden, who delivered the meal, pleaded not guilty to those charges.
Wright told the court the safety inspection also revealed there were no systems for cleaning or to avoid contamination or cross-contamination of ingredients or dishes.
The jury heard how Megan, who lived with her younger brother and parents, was studying for her forthcoming mock exams.
Wright told jurors how the entry in the comment box could have been more specific. However, he added: “We say the import of the entry was obvious in ordering dishes that did not ordinarily contain either such ingredients and was designed to alert the staff at the takeaway to the risk such foodstuffs pose to a potential customer.
“No attention was paid to the entry by anyone at the takeaway, or if it was too little to have been of any consequence. If it had been, we say the least that may have happened was that the meaning of the entry would have been explored.”
The father of Megan’s friend contacted the takeaway after he learned of her initial allergic reaction and Rashid went to the delivery address after Megan had been collected by her mother.
Rashid was said to have observed he was familiar with allergies and the risks they posed due to his own family having such issues, but the impression he gave was there was nothing in the meal that could have caused such a reaction, the court heard.
The trial, estimated to last up to four weeks, continues on Monday, when Wright will continue his opening of the prosecution case.