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Computer programmer died from allergic reaction to nuts in pizza, coroner rules

James Atkinson, 23, whose inquest was held in Newcastle (Family handout/PA)
James Atkinson, 23, whose inquest was held in Newcastle (Family handout/PA)

A coroner has ruled that a computer programmer died from a severe allergic reaction after eating less than a slice of a takeaway pizza which he did not know contained nuts.

James Atkinson, 23, and two flatmates ordered three chicken tikka masala pizzas, chips and assorted Indian dishes on the Deliveroo app from the Dadyal restaurant in Newcastle, in July 2020.

Within an hour of eating a few mouthfuls of the pizza, which he did not know contained peanuts in a nut powder used to make the curry, he had died in hospital.

The cause of death was anaphylaxis caused by eating peanuts in the curry, the inquest in Newcastle has heard.

James Atkinson inquest
James Atkinson, 23, had a peanut allergy and was careful with what he ate, the inquest heard (Family handout/PA)

Coroner Karen Dilks returned a narrative conclusion at the end of the inquest at Newcastle Civic Centre, outlining how he ordered the food on an app, that he did not contact the restaurant directly to inform them of his allergies and that he did not have an EpiPen available once he started to feel ill.

She said the restaurant did not say on its menus that a mixed nut powder containing as much as 99% peanut was used in making its chicken tikka masala.

To prevent future deaths, the coroner will write to the Department of Health to urge GPs to regularly review patients who have allergies and educate them about the importance of carrying EpiPens.

She will also write to the relevant authorities in support of Owen’s Law, which is calling for restaurants to state in writing the allergens their dishes include.

But Mrs Dilks will not make any recommendations to the three major food ordering apps, which includes Deliveroo, about how they could mitigate the risks for any customers who may have an allergy.

She finished the hearing by offering her sincere condolences to Mr Atkinson’s family who attended the inquest which started last Monday.

During the hearing, she heard that the Dadyal restaurant menus mentioned coconut, almond and cashew in the ingredients of their chicken tikka masala, but not the peanut powder it actually contained.

When Deliveroo users place an order they are warned to inform the restaurant directly if they had any allergies, the inquest has heard, but Mr Atkinson did not do that.

He knew he had a peanut allergy and was careful with what he ate, the coroner was told.

His flatmates said that night he used Google to check if tikka masalas contained nuts.

Gulfam Ulhaq, 58, who ran the restaurant for his brother who owned it, said it was up to customers to inform staff if they had an allergy.

Through an interpreter, he told the inquest previously: “They could lose their life.

“It is the responsibility of the person who has the allergy to mention it.”

Mr Atkinson told his friends that something was wrong with the pizza soon after his first mouthful as his lips began to tingle.

He was able to call for an ambulance while his two flatmates searched for his EpiPen, without success.

Paramedics were at his shared house in Jesmond within minutes and he asked the crew “Am I going to die?”

He rapidly became very unwell and was rushed to the Royal Victoria Infirmary where efforts to save him were in vain.

The Dadyal in Howard Street has been closed for almost two years, the inquest was told.