Restaurant Owner Sent To Prison For Deadly Lie After Curry Recipe Killed Customer With Nut Allergy

The creativity that goes into a recipe is the pride of any chef, but lying about ingredients could have deadly consequences. A British restaurant owner has been sentenced to six years in prison for such a lie that killed his customer. His popular curry chicken tikka masala recipe ended up becoming the last meal for one customer. There was no cyanide or arsenic, but there was a huge measure of dishonesty.

Mohammed Zaman, the owner of Indian Garden North Yorkshire in England, made some substitutions in his kitchen to save money. Two years ago, Zaman was facing crushing debt that threatened the wellbeing of his restaurant. He was over $435,000 in debt and was forced to make some drastic changes to cut overhead costs. Tragically, he made the wrong changes. He replaced ground almonds with ground peanuts to save money. When customer Paul Wilson perused the menu in 2014, he specifically asked about the chicken tikka masala. He’d dealt with a severe peanut allergy since childhood and was extremely cautious about the ingredients in any food he ingested. According to a report from Fox News, court documents reveal that he made the restaurant aware of his deadly allergy and the server wrote “no nuts” on his takeout container. Satisfied that the restaurant had taken sufficient care with his order, he took only one bite before he suffered from anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction that killed him. Three weeks prior to the incident another customer, Ruby Scott, a 17-year-old with allergies, had a reaction to the same curry recipe, yet owner Zaman took no action to change the situation.

Restaurant owner killed customer
A variety of spices [Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images]

The judge presiding over the case, Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, lectured the restaurant owner for his lack of concern over his customers’ safety. He told him that Paul Wilson had been in the “prime of his life” and had been so meticulous with his attention to ingredients that he’d managed to avoid eating peanuts his entire life.

“He, like you, worked in the catering trade. He, unlike you, was a careful man.”

Zaman was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence and six other food safety offenses and will now be in prison for six years. The court ruling could set a precedent and change the way negligence cases are handled in the UK restaurant industry.

Paul Wilson, a restaurant bar manager, was found slumped over the toilet at his home, dead from a severe case of anapyhlactic shock. As a result, Zaman will face the penalty of prison. Zaman had become successful in the restaurant business 40 years prior, building a restaurant property portfolio worth more than 2 million pounds. The judge scolded him for the carelessness that killed an innocent man.

“You threw all that away. You have done so in pursuit of profit. You have done so in such a manner as to bring about the death of another individual.”

He then went on to admonish him about the warning three weeks prior when the 17-year-old customer suffered an allergic reaction. The judge said Zaman could have destroyed the ground nut mix then, but in spite of the danger, he continued to use it at his six restaurants. He said Zaman told “many lies” to the jury and that he remains in “complete and utter denial” for what he had done. It wasn’t a simple temporary change, but one that started seven months prior to Wilson’s death. In addition to his sneaky recipe-swapping, he also cut corners by hiring untrained, illegal workers. Zaman claimed to have left restaurant managers to handle everything, including ordering stock and hiring staff. He said in his defense that he was not on the premises when the curry that killed Wilson was sold. The prosecutor, Richard Wright QC, said that Zaman had received numerous warnings that he was risking his customers’ health and potentially their lives.

“Tragically for Paul Wilson, Mohammed Zaman took none of those opportunities and ignored all of the warnings he was given.”

He went on to say that restaurant owner Zaman’s attitude was reckless, cavalier, and grossly negligent. Wilson’s parents, Keith and Margaret Wilson, said their son had carefully managed his allergy since he was 7-years-old and had a reaction to a chocolate bar. They said he loved curry dishes but was always very clear when placing an order that his food must absolutely not contain any nuts. The Yorkshire Post says they stated that justice had been served in this case and that Paul can rest in peace now.

“We can’t go back and change the past, all we can do is focus on the present and the future and making things right. Don’t let this happen again.”

Restaurant owner Mohammed Zaman will have plenty of time to think about the consequences of what he did. Six years in prison will allow him to remember the cost of his money-saving deception and the customer he killed.

[Photo by Peter Mcdiarmid/Getty Images]