PORT officials are being told to check that almond products being imported into the UK have not been contaminated with peanuts after a North Yorkshire bar manager suffered a fatal allergy.
The death of Paul Wilson, from Helperby, who was found unresponsive at his home in January, is the third in recent weeks reported to be linked to an allergic reaction to peanuts in takeaways.
Mr Wilson, 38, a “bubbly and friendly” father-of-one, is understood to have bought a curry from the same takeaway in nearby Easingwold where he had visited most weeks since moving to the area a year ago.
The bar manager, known for always asking for freshly-made curries because of his nut allergy, is thought to have realised something was wrong with his meal before collapsing at his home.
North Yorkshire Police have arrested two men aged 51 and 38 in connection with his death and released them on bail while the investigation continues.
Curry sauces from restaurants across the country are being urgently tested after three deaths, including that of Mr Wilson, were linked to an allergic reaction from peanuts in takeaways.
Connor Donaldson, 12, from Tyldesley, Greater Manchester, and Derek Stephenson, 32, a gardener from Stanhope, Co Durham, are also reported to have died in separate cases.
Almond prices have doubled in a year, prompting fears that cheaper ground peanuts are being added to almond powder and that some takeaway owners are using peanuts to save money.
The Food Standards Agency now says it has written to all Chief Port Health Officers, who monitor products being imported into the country, asking them to carry out extra checks.
A spokesman said: “Adulterating any ingredients with undeclared peanuts could have potentially fatal consequences for some people. We are working with the catering industry, local authorities, and allergy groups to raise awareness of this problem.
“We have also written to UK authorities dealing with imported foods asking them to test ground, chopped or crushed almonds for substitution with peanuts.”
Mr Wilson, who had a six-year-old son, Cameron, was pronounced dead after being found unresponsive in the living quarters of the Oak Tree Inn, in Helperby, where he worked as a bar manager, on January 30.
Following Mr Wilson’s death, his parents asked for donations on a JustGiving page in memory of their son to be given to Allergy UK. Grant Shewan, 41, an IT consultant who became friends with Mr Wilson when he moved to Helperby, set up the page online.
He said: “He was bubbly and friendly. He took banter very well and was always up for a laugh. He was a big part of the Oak Tree.
“He was always wary about what he ate and where he ate and always told people at restaurants that he was allergic to nuts. I know he would have gone in and asked for a fresh curry and said he had a nut allergy. He had eaten at the same place pretty much every week for the last eight or nine months.
“We are totally shocked at the moment, it is absolutely tragic.”
His wife Janine Shewan, 37, who works part-time at The Oak Tree, said: “Paul was a great friend, I miss him every day. I worked with him and life was good. Paul loved his family and they were his world. The love and respect that he had for his parents was incredible, his love for Cameron even more so.”