Parents’ horror after learning their daughter had stopped breathing due to an allergic reaction before she died two days later
Parents of a teenage girl who died of a fatal allergic reaction have told of the time they were rushed to hospital to be with her.
Megan Lee, 15, suffered a devastating asthma attack in 2017 after unknowingly eating a takeaway meal containing peanuts at Royal Spice takeaway in Oswaldtwistle. The teenager, her friend, had ordered the meal on December 30, 2016 and had listed her allergy in the comments and notes section alongside a separate allergy space.
The meal – which included onion bhaji, seekh kebab and peshwari naan – was later found to have the “widespread presence” of peanut protein. Megan died two days later on New Years Day 2017.
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Now Megan’s mom and dad, Gemma and Adam, have been honored for their dedication and commitment to raising awareness about food allergens. They spoke about their experiences in hopes of stopping other tragic cases like the one Megan suffered.
“It was right after Christmas. Megan had arranged to go out with her friend for the day,” Adam Lee said. “Gemma had dropped me off at the pub where I was having a few drinks with friends. I was there for about an hour. All of a sudden my day came running through the door saying ‘Adam, you have to come with me’.
“At first it didn’t register. He said, ‘you have to come with me now. Megan isn’t breathing’. After that, the journey home was just a blur. . As soon as I I walked through the door, I ran straight to Megan.”
After the tragedy, Gemma and Lee worked with trading standards officers from Lancashire County Council to produce Megan’s Story, a short film, seen abovewith valuable photos and video of the Oswaldtwistle schoolgirl growing up, to educate businesses about the risks associated with allergens and ensure other families don’t have to go through the same ordeal.
The video has been used across the UK and was recently incorporated into a multilingual resource developed by Trading Standards Wales.
After Megan’s death, two takeout bosses were jailed for her manslaughter. A Manchester Crown Court jury found takeaway owner Mohammed Abdul Kuddus, 40, and manager Harun Rashid, 38, guilty of unlawfully killing Megan due to gross negligence. The two-week trial heard there was a ‘litany of flaws’ in the kitchen, including poor hygiene and no records of ingredients kept.
Five days after Megan’s death, the restaurant was immediately closed following an inspection by trading standards and environmental health officers. Rashid was jailed for three years and Kuddus for two years in 2018.
For their commitment and dedication to raising awareness of food allergens, Megan’s parents, Gemma and Adam, received a special recognition award at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute National Conference in Bristol.
Gemma said: “We can’t change our history as much as we would like. Every day we wake up and hope it was a nightmare, but it’s not. What we can do is is helping others by preventing this story from happening to anyone. We have continued to raise awareness of the dangers of allergens and hope that we will make business owners and their staff think about their actions. No one wants a another tragedy occurs.
Adam said, “If companies aren’t 100% sure of the ingredients in their products, I would say you shouldn’t provide that to the customer. Prevention is better than cure.”
Up to a third of the UK population, or 21 million people, are thought to be living with an allergy of one form or another and this number is increasing at an alarming rate.
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Director of Public Health for Lancashire County Council, said: “Food allergy is a serious and growing public health problem. There has been a dramatic increase in allergic disease in recent years and awareness about it for businesses and the public. Its very important.”
Adam added, “It was amazing to receive an award at the 2022 CTSI conference. To receive an award in memory of our daughter is truly heartwarming.”
For more information on allergies Click here.
The video above was kindly provided by Lancashire County Council