Food safety & gross negligence manslaughter


On the 30th January 2014 Paul Wilson, aged 38, ordered a takeaway meal from the Indian Garden Restaurant in Easingwold, North Yorkshire.

When placing his order, Mr Wilson expressly requested that his meal be prepared without containing nuts as he had a severe peanut allergy.

The lid of the takeaway meal was clearly marked “no nuts”. However, tragically, the dish contained high levels of peanut which proved fatal to Mr Wilson. 

At the time of his death the takeaway, owned by Mohammed Kalique Zaman of York, was already under investigation by Trading Standards as a consequence of an incident which occurred a few weeks earlier. A 16 year girl was admitted to hospital for several days having also suffered an allergic reaction to food purchased from the restaurant.

It transpired that Mr Zaman instructed his staff to use ground nut powder in meal preparation and continued to do so despite warnings against this practice prior to Mr Wilson’s death.

In short, his death was entirely foreseeable and preventable.

Given the facts of the case, there would have been little doubt from the outset that a conviction would have been secured against Mr Zaman for breaches of Food Safety Legislation. Food Hygiene Regulations make it an offence to render food injurious to health, sell food which is not of the nature or substance or quality demanded and food which is falsely or misleadingly described.

On this occasion however, perhaps due to evidence that the legislation had been breached deliberately and for commercial gain, Trading Standards worked alongside colleagues in the Crown Prosecution Service with a view to prosecuting Mr Zaman for the offence of gross negligent manslaughter.

The House of Lords have laid down a four stage test which needs to be satisfied before the offence can be established. The Prosecution must show that:

  • A duty of care was owed by the Defendant to the deceased;
  • There has been a breach of that duty;
  • The breach caused or significantly contributed to the death of the deceased and; &
  • The breach should be characterised as gross negligence and therefore a crime.

On this occasion, the Jury had little difficulty in concluding that the offence of gross negligence manslaughter had been committed and as a result Mr Zaman was jailed for 6 years.

Thankfully, incidents of this type are rare although this will be of scant comfort to the bereaved family of Mr Wilson. The case does nevertheless highlight the importance of ensuring that appropriate systems are in place to prevent entirely foreseeable and avoidable tragedies of this kind occurring again.

If we can assist you in any way, or if you simply want to discuss a regulatory issue, please contact us at any time.


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