On Monday, in what is being called a landmark decision, a British court found restaurant owner Mohammed Zaman guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence for the death of Paul Wilson, a 38-year-old man with a severe peanut allergy who died after eating a meal he ordered from one of Zaman’s Indian restaurants, despite specifically asking for no nuts.
According to the BBC, “no nuts” was literally written on Wilson’s order and the lid of the chicken tikka masala that caused his death. Allegedly, peanuts still found their way into the meal because Zaman had switched from almond powder to a less expensive ground nut mix that contained peanuts in an effort to increase profits. The restauranteur was also deemed to be excessively reckless because a teenager suffered a similar reaction just three weeks before Wilson’s death and did nothing to try to resolve the issue despite warnings from officials.
Zaman, investigators said showed a “lack of remorse,” reportedly claiming that managers ran his restaurants for him and that he had nothing to do with ordering ingredients nor was he on the premises when Wilson ordered his dish. Still, in what North Yorkshire Police detective inspector Shaun Page called precedent-setting for the British food industry, Zaman was sentenced to six years in jail after being convicted of the manslaughter charge as well as six food safety offences.
Legal precedent aside, the story certainly serves as a reminder to restaurant owners everywhere the importance of heeding food allergy requests and knowing what ingredients ultimately end up in the food they serve.