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Bath takeaway owner fined following allergy death of schoolgirl

Riad Benotman is the Director of Al Falafel Takeaway Ltd which runs a kebab shop on Monmouth Street. Photo: Google maps

A Bath takeaway owner has been ordered to pay more than £2,800 following the death of a 15-year-old schoolgirl who had an allergic reaction after eating food she bought from his shop.

On 5 March 2017, Chloe Marie Gilbert from Seend near Melksham and her friend were shopping in Bath when they got lunch at the Al Falafel takeaway around 2pm. She felt unwell almost immediately after eating her doner kebab.

While walking through Southgate Shopping Centre with her friend, Chloe, who had a dairy allergy and carried an epi-pen at all times, found it hard to breathe and collapsed. Medical staff could not revive her and she passed away shortly after 3.30pm. Assistant coroner Dr Peter Harrowing concluded it was an accidental death caused by anaphylactic shock.

37-year-old Riad Benotman from Crescent Gardens in Bath is the only Director of Al Falafel Takeaway Ltd which runs a kebab shop on Monmouth Street. He pleaded guilty at Bath Magistrates Court on 20 June to an offence of 'failing to identify the food he served was hazardous to customers with food sensitivities' and 'failing to ensure documentation in respect of allergies was kept up to date'.

Credit: PA

Following Gilbert's death, a joint investigation was launched by Police and Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Trading Standards and Food Safety teams. It revealed there were no signs in the shop alerting customers to the presence of any allergens in food and none of the menus had any allergen information.

You are not before the court for causing the death of Chloe Gilbert. Nothing I can do or say will lessen the grief for Chloe’s family. What happened was a tragic situation which I’m sure will live with them forever.

As you are the person who served Chloe on that day I’m satisfied that what happened will live with you forever.

You were running a takeaway business and in doing so you had an obligation to comply with the law.”

– District Judge Taylor

The Al Falafel Takeaway has been trading in the centre of Bath for over 10 years and employs three members of staff. It was also inspected by Council Food Safety officers on 26 September 2016. During that inspection, officers noted there were no allergen signs on display and advised Benotman that he needed to put up a sign that could clearly be seen by customers when ordering food. He said provides allergen information verbally if asked.

Benotman was fined £800, ordered to pay £2,000 costs and a victim surcharge of £80.

Stuart Brown, Trading Standards Team Leader for Bath & North East Somerset Council said the council will "extend every effort to prevent similar incidents happening in the future".

This a very tragic case for someone so young who had such a severe allergy and I extend my sympathies to the family.

This sad case illustrates the importance for Food Businesses to provide accurate allergen information to their customers and alongside this maintain suitable Food Safety Procedures to ensure risks to public health are addressed.

Our Trading Standards and Food Safety teams will continue to work together and hold businesses to account for their failures.”

– Stuart Brown, Trading Standards Team Leader for Bath & North East Somerset Council