A ‘bright and bubbly’ university graduate, who was allergic to peanuts, collapsed and died after eating just two bites of a pizza ordered via Deliveroo, an inquest will hear.
James Atkinson, 23, began suffering a severe allergic reaction shortly after eating a chicken tikka masala pizza from Dadyal Pizza, Newcastle.
Despite ordering food from the premises previously, he was unaware the restaurant had allegedly begun using peanut powder within the ingredients for making the pizza.
Now his parents, Stuart Atkinson, 59 and Jill, 58, from Leeds, say they want to discover ‘if there are lessons to be learnt’ at a three-day inquest opening at Newcastle coroner’s court on Tuesday, which would have marked James’ 26th birthday.
Specifically, they are hoping questions will be raised over the effectiveness of allergen information provided by Deliveroo, arguing that such details need to be made clearer with an allergy tick box on the order form.
The family are being supported by Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, whose 15-year-old daughter Natasha died in July 2016 from anaphylactic shock after eating a Pret A Manger baguette containing sesame seeds, which she was severely allergic to.
In the wake of her tragic death, Tanya and her husband, Nadim, set up the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation and successfully campaigned for a change in food labelling.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, Tanya said: ‘James’s tragic death throws the spotlight on the multibillion-pound food delivery businesses and what appears to be a terrifying lack of regulation.
‘It is vital that the inquest … gets to the heart of who polices corporate giants like Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats when it comes to food safety.’
The inquest comes nearly two years after James suffered anaphylactic shock, after ordering a pizza to share with his housemates at 8.10pm on July 10, 2020.
Shortly after eating a few bites of one slice of the pizza, his lips and throat swelled up. He called 999 and paramedics arrived by 8.16pm, giving him two shots of adrenaline in his leg, but he fell unconscious and went into cardiac arrest.
He was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle and pronounced dead at 9.21pm – just over an hour after eating the pizza.
James had known he was allergic to peanuts since a young teenager and was ‘always so careful’ to check ingredients, his parents said.
At the time of the tragedy, the BBC reported that Dadyal owner Gulfam Ulhaq said staff were ‘in shock’ after being told of the death.
He said: ‘I was really shocked when police told me he had passed away and that he was only 23-years-old. It is very, very sad.’
The takeaway in question continued to remain open for business, but closed last month.
The Atkinsons, who have two older daughters, hope the inquest will shed light on just how clear the food allergy information was at the time James ordered his takeaway.
Jill added: ‘What everybody needs is a clear, full list of ingredients on every item on a takeaway menu and a sticker on the takeaway box saying the allergens it contains. We’ll never know if that would have saved James, but it might have done.’
In the days leading up to the inquest, the couple say they want to pursue justice for James and have launched a crowdfunding appeal on the CrowdJustice website to raise £10,000 for a barrister.
A statement on the site said: ‘Our beautiful son died suddenly on 10 July 2020 when he was just 23 years old after ordering a takeaway pizza via the Deliveroo app from Dadyal Restaurant.
‘James had a known nut allergy to peanuts and we have been told that he may have suffered a severe allergic reaction known as ‘anaphylaxis’ after we believe he ate just once slice of pizza.
‘He was eating dinner with a few of his flat mates in Newcastle where they lived. We didn’t even get to say goodbye before his heart stopped. He died alone, without his mum, dad and family with him.
‘He was a clever boy; he had graduated from Newcastle University after studying computer science.
‘How could this have happened to him when he was always so careful? There will always be a hole in our hearts without James.
‘James was a bright and bubbly character who lived life to the full. He loved sports especially rugby, cycling and running. He also completed a triathlon with his friends which he was very proud of.
‘He moved to Newcastle to study computer science and loved it so much he decided to stay. He loved spending time with his friends and brightened up any room. He was the life and soul of a party and went out of his way to make sure everyone was having a good time.
‘James loved his time with family and looked forward to coming home to spend time with us all and having long walks with our dog. James also loved a games night and would enjoy beating us all! James will be forever missed by all his family and friends.’
Speaking about the inquest, which will open on what would have been his 26th birthday, they wrote: ‘We should be celebrating his life on this day and instead we are going to be asking questions about what happened to him that night.
‘We have no words to describe how painful this will be.’
The family has instructed a legal team from Leigh Day, which represented the families of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, Owen Carey and Shanté Turay-Thomas, who died from anaphylaxis after consuming foods they were allergic to.
They added: ‘We owe it to James’ memory to help the Senior Coroner find out whether there are any lessons to be learnt.
‘If there are, we will work with other campaigners to try to make sure that other people with allergies and their families don’t have to go through what we have.
‘We are determined to ensure a full and fearless Inquest into James’ death and want to do all we can in his memory to help increase the protection for allergy sufferers in the UK.’