Connor Donaldson, 12, died after a severe allergic reaction to peanuts he consumed in an order of takeout curry. Donaldson’s mother, Sarah, says she was promised by the restaurant’s staff that the dish did not contain peanuts.
The death took place on October 19, 2013. That evening, Sarah and her son ordered takeout from a local Indian restaurant.
“We discussed that my meal couldn’t contain nuts,” Donaldson said. “He assured me my meal wouldn’t contain nuts. Connor and I do not eat korma or tikka because it has nuts.”
But minutes after the two started eating, it was clear the staff hadn’t prepared their food carefully enough.
“I came back and sat down next to Connor and he tapped me on the leg and said ‘I can’t breath,’” Donaldson recalls. “I got his inhaler and he took ten breaths from it. The inhaler had no effect and I could tell it wasn’t going well so I straight away rang 999. I was comforting Connor and he slumped down and I was on the phone to the ambulance who were telling me what to do. I had already started doing CPR.”
Connor was pronounced dead minutes after arriving at the hospital. A coroner confirmed the allergic reaction killed him.
The owner of the restaurant that served Donaldson says that although they do their best to prevent cross-contamination, there is always a risk involved when people with allergies eat out.
“I know even the slightest thing can do something to another curry so we always make sure spoons and woks are clean,” owner Minhaz Ahmed said. But, he reiterates, “There is a risk. No matter how careful you are there is a risk. There has to be. Business owners need to know because we don’t want this to happen again.”
Dr. Vibha Sharma, an allergy expert at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, cautions people with severe food allergies to think twice before eating at restaurants.
“I don’t think the message is sufficiently out there that not only do you need to avoid food with nuts in them but you need to be careful about eating food from premises where nuts are used with any food stuff,” Dr. Sharma said. “Even a small amount from cross contamination can be fatal.”