Mumbai Flavours – the trading name of Alnwick Indian Restaurant Ltd, based in Narrowgate – pleaded guilty to placing food on the market that was unsafe and considered injurious to the health of a person who has an allergy to peanuts as it contained peanuts, and selling food that was not of the substance demanded by the purchaser.
It follows sampling carried out by Northumberland Trading Standards last summer of Indian takeaways in the county to see if nuts were included in the meals when the buyer specifically asked for them not to be used.
The restaurant was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 costs at Newcastle Crown Court.
Coun John Riddle, Northumberland County Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for trading standards, said: “We welcome this strong sentence from the courts, which should serve as a warning to other establishments that flout food safety laws.
“With around 10 people in the UK dying from reactions to food every year due to undeclared allergenic ingredients or poor food preparation practices, this is an issue that every takeaway, restaurant and food supplier in the country has to make a top priority.”
Nut and peanut allergies can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis may begin with some of the same symptoms as a less severe reaction, but then quickly worsens, leading someone to have trouble breathing, feeling lightheaded, or to pass out.
If it is not treated quickly, anaphylaxis can be life-threatening.
Philip Soderquest, the council’s head of housing and public protection, said: “The judge was very strong in her comments, saying that the food represented a high risk to consumers and the approach of the restaurant in selling curries with traces of peanut, even though it was specifically asked for without, made them highly culpable in the circumstances.
“This fine sends a strong message to the trade that the courts will take these issues very seriously.
“Caterers have to take issues around allergens seriously and consumers must remember to tell staff about their allergy when ordering food because even very small amounts of an allergen can lead to illness, or even death in extreme cases.”
“We are happy to advise business owners if they have any concerns at all. We would rather advise and support businesses rather than prosecute, but we will prosecute where the circumstances support it.”
Any caterer with concerns about allergenic ingredients should visit the Food Standards Agency website at www.food.gov.uk or call Trading Standards on 01670 623870.
Customers who have bought food that they are concerned about should call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506.