A 14-year-old boy died after suffering an allergic reaction to popcorn he ate at a cinema, a coroner has ruled.
Ruben Bousquet was with his parents at the Odeon in Greenwich, south east London, on 18 April 2019, when he became unwell.
He was “exquisitely sensitive to food allergies” including cow’s milk, raw egg and soya, the inquest heard.
Coroner Andrew Harris said the popcorn had been cross-contaminated with milk, triggering Reuben’s allergic reaction.
The family rushed home to get Ruben’s EpiPen, which he had left behind, but they were too late, the inquest heard.
Southwark Coroner’s Court was told Ruben had regularly visited the same IMAX cinema and had eaten the same brand of sweet popcorn before.Mr Harris said the cinema’s food supplier Thomas Tucker Ltd had failed to carry out risk assessments when changing factory locations.
In September 2019 the company went into administration after the Food Standards Agency launched an allergy alert when it was revealed the firm’s popcorn products may have contained undeclared milk.
Odeon “terminated” its contract with Thomas Tucker Ltd in the same month, the court heard.
In his ruling, Mr Harris said he could not be sure whether the cross-contamination happened in the production process or at the kiosk where it was bought.”
He ate some sweet unpackaged popcorn in Greenwich and felt unwell,” Mr Harris said.”
He became distressed about three minutes from home and collapsed.
Ambulance crews arrived and gave advanced resuscitation.”Ruben was taken to Evelina Children’s Hospital and found to “have inconceivable brain damage”.Mr Harris gave Ruben’s cause of death as “an acute anaphylaxis from cross contamination of popcorn”.
He added: “The popcorn was supplied in a free-from milk chain but had become cross contaminated. “Ruben was under the impression it was free of allergens and had he asked staff then that is what they would have believed too.”