'Nut-free' cake left Kirk Ella woman fighting for life
A YOUNG woman almost died when she suffered a severe allergic reaction to a cake that was sold as being peanut-free.
Preethi Koshy, 22, spent three days on a life-support machine after eating one mouthful of a marble cake her mother had purchased at a food fair.
When her mother asked if the cake contained peanuts, stall-holder Kamal Parekh insisted it did not.
An investigation by trading standards officers later revealed peanuts were the main ingredient, making up 55 per cent of the cake. Miss Koshy said: "I knew it was really serious. I could feel my throat swelling up and my breathing stopping.
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"I know I am lucky to be alive. The doctors said if I had gone two minutes longer without treatment, I probably wouldn't have survived."
Parekh and his company, RK Sweets, have now been fined £7,500 after admitting selling food that was not of the nature, substance or quality demanded by the purchaser under the Food Safety Act 1990.
Miss Koshy, a trainee optometrist, said: "The fine does not hit home hard enough and doesn't reflect how close I was to losing my life.
"They passively told my mum there were no peanuts in it, without thinking how serious the outcome could have been."
Miss Koshy had returned from university to her family home in Kirk Ella when she ate one mouthful of the cake on April 2 last year.
Her mother, Bina Koshy, had purchased it from an Indian food festival held at Hull City Hall hours earlier.
David Hercock, prosecuting at Hull Crown Court, said: "She put a small piece of the cake into her mouth. Within seconds, she could feel her throat constricting and recognised it as anaphylactic shock."
Mrs Koshy drove her to Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham but Miss Koshy lost consciousness and went into cardiac arrest on the way.
Her father, Hull GP Dr Koshy Johnson, said she was lucky to survive.
Dr Johnson said: "My wife drove because Preethi said there wasn't time to wait for an ambulance.
"When they arrived at the hospital, an off-duty doctor was passing by. He realised what was happening and called the crash team out to her.
"If he hadn't have acted so quickly, Preethi could have been brain-damaged or dead. She was very lucky, because that hospital doesn't have an accident and emergency department. But she wouldn't have survived if she had to travel to Hull."
Miss Koshy spent eight days in the hospital, in intensive care and then the high-dependency unit. She has since made a full recovery.
She said: "I remember being in the car and I knew it was very serious. I was panicking inside, realising I was losing consciousness but I was trying to keep my mum calm.
"The next thing I remember is waking up in intensive care two days later. My sister said the doctors told her my life was hanging by a thread."
Miss Koshy had left her EpiPen, a shot of adrenaline designed to stop the effects of anaphylactic shock, at her home in Bradford, where she was studying.
She said: "I had never suffered a reaction like it before. Now I carry it everywhere with me because it could save my life."
Dr Johnson, a GP at Clifton House medical centre in west Hull, said he and his wife always ensure there are no traces of peanut in any food at their home.
He said: "What the company did was shocking. If we knew there was even a chance there could be a trace of peanuts in it, we wouldn't touch it. But they categorically said there was no peanuts in it, so you trust that.
"Preethi's life could have been lost because of what they said. They put us through so much trauma and it is a miracle she is OK.
"Because of that, I was quite surprised at the leniency of the sentence. What happened couldn't have been more severe."
The court was told Parekh and the company, based in Preston, Lancashire, failed to attend an interview arranged by trading standards officers and did not respond to questions they sent by post.
Mr Hercock said the company, which has been trading for more than 25 years, did not have suitable procedures in place to stop the contamination.
Hull City Council's trading standards manager Chris Wilson said: "As the owner of a small food manufacturing business, Mr Parekh would have been fully aware of the allergen risk posed by peanuts.
"For him to then describe a product containing more than 50 per cent peanut as being peanut free is beyond belief.
"This case should serve as a warning to the minority of food businesses who are prepared to put the health of consumers at risk.
"Such serious offences will always be investigated by the trading standards service."