An inquest into the death of an 11-year-old boy concluded this week that he died of a nut allergy after consuming mithai from a gift box which was contaminated with nuts.
Aaron O’Farrell, from the village of Doe Lea in Derbyshire, died in September 2014 after his mother gave him the Indian sweet from a gift box of prasad handed out at a Navratri festival event.
Jaywantee O’Farrell said she did not see any allergy warnings on the box before feeding the sweet to her son.
The Assistant Coroner for Derbyshire, James Newman, recorded a verdict of “misadventure” and offered his condolences to the family.
“The evidence has at times been unclear and at times contradictory,” he noted at the end of the inquest on Monday.
The O’Farrells had travelled to Birmingham for a family meal with her aunt Neela Ramchurn and brought back the gift box with them to their home in Derbyshire.
Aaron spat out the sweet the moment his mother fed it to him and soon after complained to his dad, James O’Farrell, that he was struggling to breathe, the Derbyshire Times reported.
Paramedics arrived after an emergency call and Aaron was given adrenaline and it initially appeared to work. However, his health deteriorated when he was in the ambulance and he passed away at Chesterfield Royal Hospital on September 28, 2014.
The cause of death was given as anaphylactic shock due to peanut allergy. Aaron had suffered from a severe peanut allergy since he was two and the inquest was told that even a bowl of peanuts on a table would cause a reaction.
The gift boxes bought for the Navratri festival from Suraj Sweet Centre in Birmingham had no allergy warning signs because they were sample boxes.
According to witnesses, the organisers of the festival had tried to cut costs by asking for sweet and savoury snacks to be placed in one single box.
Aaron’s mother, a nurse, said she gave her son a piece of sweet believed to be condensed milk but did not see the Bombay Mix snack next to the sweet.
“I find it difficult to believe that the box was fully examined when opened. However, I can understand how a family returning home in the night and after a limited amount of sleep might have simply opened the box and reached inside for a piece of the parshaad (prasad),” the coroner noted.
The family described Aaron, who had just started secondary school, as a “bubbly and funny” personality. His mother sobbed as she recalled the moment that led to his death.
“If I had seen any peanuts in the box I would not have given it to him, and I would still have my son here today,” she said.
Aaron’s father criticised the suppliers of the gift boxes for not clearly labelling the boxes.
“There is so much negligence about not putting a warning on the box,” he said.
Director at Suraj Sweet Centre, Bhikhu Odedra, told the inquest that just three months after Aaron’s death the law changed to require all boxes to be labelled.
But he stressed that it was obvious to the naked eye that the gift boxes contained peanuts in the savoury Bombay Mix snack next to the mithai.
“Had I noticed any form of peanuts I would not have taken them home for the simple reason that I knew that Aaron was coming,” Aarons aunt Neela Ramchurn told the inquest.
The coroner concluded that he was satisfied the box contained peanuts in the savoury snack.