A British teenager has died in Mexico of an allergic reaction after eating a vegetarian burrito containing sesame seeds, despite warning restaurant staff about his condition.
Joe Dobson, 19, of London, asked staff several times in Spanish and English to make sure there was no sesame in the food, the South London Coroner’s Court heard.
Friends claimed that after just three bites, Joe knew there was sesame in his food, but the restaurant staff didn’t seem concerned about his allergy and wouldn’t call an ambulance.
On November 1 last year, Joe, who was with friends in the Quintana Roo beach resort of Playa del Carmen, had left his EpiPen at their apartment, but by the time they came back and used it, it was too late.
Joe Dobson was with friends at the beach resort of Playa del Carmen in Quintana Roo, Mexico (pictured)
The 19-year-old was increasingly unable to breathe and slipped into unconsciousness before later dying in hospital.
It’s the latest in a string of allergy sufferers killed by food they ate, while grieving families campaign for more to be done.
The parents of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, who died after eating a Pret a Manger baguette with sesame seeds in 2016, have since campaigned for tougher food safety laws.
They welcomed the introduction of the “Natasha Law” last year, which mandates full labeling of ingredients and allergens on food.
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse (left) died after eating a Pret a Manger baguette containing sesame seeds in 2016, while mother of five Celia Mash (right) – who was suffering from an acute milk allergy – died after eating a Pret a Manger -Wrap that was contaminated with traces of milk in 2017
Grieving families are calling for stricter food safety laws
Joe Dobson, 19, is just the latest allergy sufferer to die after eating a meal that contained an ingredient dead to him.
Mother-of-five Celia Marsh, 42, who suffered from an acute milk allergy, died after eating a Pret a Manger wrap contaminated with traces of milk in 2017.
And in 2016, Natasha Ednan-Laperouse also died after eating a Pret a Manger baguette that contained sesame seeds.
In 2014, This Morning producer Amy May Shead, 31, went into anaphylactic shock after eating just one bite of a chicken and rice dish that contained nuts and was confined to a wheelchair, partially paralyzed and not in able to see or speak properly.
Celia Marsh’s eldest daughter Ashleigh Grice, 27, said: “As a family we believe the food industry and government need to take action now. We need better testing, better labeling and better healthcare.”
Celia Marsh, 42, died after eating a Pret a Manger vegan wrap that contained traces of milk despite an acute milk allergy
Meanwhile, at the time of Natasha Ednan-Laperouses’ inquest, her father Nadim said: “Our beloved daughter died in a tragedy that never happened and we believe this inquest has shown that she died from inadequate food labeling laws.
“We feel that if Pret A Manger obeys the law, the law is playing Russian roulette with our daughter’s life.
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died in 2016 after eating a Pret a Manger sandwich
“It is clear that the food labeling laws as they stand are not fit for purpose and now is the time to change the law.
“Natascha’s investigation should serve as a turning point to bring about meaningful change and save lives.”
“Natasha’s Law” was later introduced thanks to her parents, who fought for stricter food safety laws. It requires full labeling of ingredients and allergens on food.
They said they were also standing behind the family of mother-of-five Celia Mash – who suffered from an acute milk allergy – after she also died in 2017 from eating a Pret a Manger wrap that was contaminated with traces of milk.
Coroner Mark Taylor told the court last Wednesday that Joe was allergic to sesame, eggs, milk and peanuts.
He also described how the staff did not understand the seriousness of the situation. “The staff told him to drink some honey and lemon juice, and he did so apparently to keep her calm,” he said.
In a statement read by Mr Taylor, Harriet Preston, a friend of Joe’s, said she was visiting him and they shared an Airbnb.
She said: “I’ve known Joe for three years. He never failed to celebrate my achievements with me, no matter how small.
“I was aware of his medical condition and that he was carrying medication. I visited him while he was working there.
“We had a normal day, chilling on the beach, driving into town and looking around the shops.
“We decided to eat at a fusion restaurant where they had been before. Joe ordered a veggie burrito and said no sesame and used the Spanish word.
“After ordering, there was communication between them to ensure his meal did not contain sesame.
“When the food arrived it was sent back as Joe thought it had sesame in it.”
Joe had tried to communicate with the staff in plain English that if he ate sesame he would die.
But Harriet added: “Joe’s food came back and I watched as he held his flashlight over it. He took two bites and said no, that’s tough.
“He went over to the bar staff, they denied it. He could feel it in his throat. He said he needed an ambulance but the staff was reluctant.
“The staff did not handle our situation as it was. There was no basic first aid or knowledge.”
A second friend who was there that night, Ryan, said that Joe made his allergies clear to the restaurant staff and that they had eaten there before with no problems.
He told the court in a statement, “This time he noticed the burrito looked different.
‘He sent it back, but it didn’t look any different. He repeated his allergies several times. He took one to three bites, he felt something was wrong. He informed the group.
“He didn’t have his EpiPen with him. He became more and more urgent in his requests, let the honey drink.
“He went to the apartment to get his EpiPen. He ran to the taxi and the driver was very nonchalant and walked slowly to the door. He didn’t understand the heaviness at all.
“This escalated when we got to the apartment. Joe went straight to the elevators. He fell down.
“I ran upstairs to get the pens, picked them up and ran back down. Joe had managed to crawl into the elevator and get to our floor, so I dragged him out of the elevator and got out the pens, but the pens didn’t help.’
The coroner described how, after Joe fell unconscious, he was taken to the local hospital by a police car, but doctors were unable to revive him and he died that evening.
Mr Taylor said: “It appears there was a 10 to 15 minute gap before the pen could be used. I have no evidence to tell me if it would have made a difference in terms of outcome.
“I suspect there are a lot of factors to consider, the amount of sesame and absorption factors.
“It seems very clear to me that Joe did everything he could reasonably have done to warn the restaurant not to serve him any food with sesame seeds and even checked himself out.
“And it’s very clear to me that it was the sesame in the restaurant’s dishes that caused the allergic reaction.
‘Joe acted unknowingly by eating the food with sesame seeds causing the fatal reaction.
“This shouldn’t have happened and it should have happened to someone like Joe at his age.”