Peanuts in Edinburgh Airport food ‘could have killed my son’

Unlabelled allergens served in an Edinburgh airport cafe could all too easily have proved fatal for Shirley McMillan's son Oliver. Picture: PA
Unlabelled allergens served in an Edinburgh airport cafe could all too easily have proved fatal for Shirley McMillan's son Oliver. Picture: PA
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A woman whose teenage son almost died after eating a salad at Edinburgh Airport which contained unlabelled allergens has called for a groundbreaking treatment to be brought to Scotland.

Shirley McMillan said she had previously tried to obtain immunotherapy for her son, Oliver, now 18, who was born with a life-threatening allergy to peanuts – but was told it was not available north of the border.

The family were returning from an overseas trip three years ago when Oliver, then 15, ate a crayfish salad – which was not labelled as containing peanuts – from a coffee shop at the airport. Within minutes he suffered a severe allergic reaction.

He survived after being rushed to hospital for urgent treatment, but his mother said that if the family had been boarding a plane, the outcome could have been the same as for teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse (inset), who tragically died on board a flight after eating an unlabelled Pret A Manger baguette.

McMillan pursued the issue with the coffee shop chain, and was told only that the dish contained peanut powder as a thickener.

However, she believes if her son had been able to access immunotherapy treatment as a child, he may not have suffered such a severe reaction. The treatment works by exposing allergic children to minute quantities of peanut protein over a two-year period.

“I was so relieved that my son was alive that I didn’t pursue this further at the time,” she said.

“But it is unbelievable that there is an entire country without access to this immunotherapy.

“If children were able to have this treatment in Scotland, it would be such a weight off your mind.”

The only option on offer to her was to travel to Cambridge every few weeks, at a cost of £20,000, for treatment at a specialised clinic at the city’s Addenbrooke’s hospital.

McMillan said that allergy provision for adults in Scotland is almost non-existent – with no clinics available now that her son is too old to attend sessions at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.

“What they do there is see you once a year and remind you how to use an epipen,” McMillan said. “Otherwise, even as a child, you are on your own.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said it would monitor the progress of immunotherapy in England. She said: “Severe allergy services exist in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee.”