Mexico: Joe Dobson died of an allergic reaction to sesame seeds in burritos

Playa del Carmen, Mexico - February 15, 2014: People walking around busy Calle Quinta Avenida at night in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

The incident happened in November last year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico (Image: Getty Images)

A teenage tourist died last year from an allergic reaction to a Mexican burrito, according to a coroner.

Joe Dobson reportedly told restaurant staff repeatedly in English and Spanish that he was allergic to sesame and would die if he ate sesame, but when he responded they were reluctant to call an ambulance.

The 19-year-old sent his food back and again warned not to eat sesame – but realized after a few bites that the food contained it.

He didn’t have his Epi-Pen with him on Nov. 1 in Playa del Carmen — but despite rushing back to their AirBnB and using it, he fell unconscious and later died in hospital.

Joe, from London, had gone to a fusion restaurant they had previously visited with friends in the seaside resort, the South London Coroner’s Court heard this week.

In a statement read by Coroner Mark Taylor, Joe’s friend Harriet Preston explained: “We decided to eat at a fusion restaurant that they had been to before.

“Joe ordered a veggie burrito and said no sesame and used the Spanish word.

“After ordering, there was communication between them to ensure his meal did not contain sesame.

Joe ordered a Mexican burrito, perhaps similar to the one in this file image (Image: Getty Images)

“When the food arrived it was sent back as Joe thought it had sesame in it.”

She added that Joe tried to tell the restaurant staff in plain English that if he ate sesame, he would die.

Harriet continued: “Joe’s food came back and I watched as he held his flashlight over it. He took two bites and said no, that’s tough.

“He went over to the bar staff, they denied it. He could feel it in his throat.

“He said he needed an ambulance but the staff hesitated.”

A second friend named Ryan, who was also there that night, confirmed that Joe made his allergies clear to staff, who offered him a honey-lemon drink after the reaction.

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Ryan recalled that as the situation escalated on the way back to their quarters, Joe lost consciousness and fell near the elevator.

Eventually, as his friends grew more desperate, a police car took him to the hospital, but it was too late to save him.

Ryan said in court on Wednesday, “He sent it (the burrito) back but it didn’t look any different. He repeated his allergies several times.

“He took one to three bites, he felt something was wrong. He informed the group.

“He didn’t have his EpiPen with him. He became more and more urgent in his requests (and) drank the honey.’

Ryan continued: “He went to the apartment to get his EpiPen.

“He ran to the taxi and the driver was very nonchalant and walked slowly to the door. He didn’t understand the heaviness at all.

“This escalated when we got to the apartment. Joe went straight to the elevators. He fell down.

“I ran upstairs to get the pens, picked them up and ran back down. Joe had managed to crawl into the elevator and get to our floor, so I dragged him out of the elevator and got out the pens, but the pens didn’t help.’

Coroner Taylor said Joe’s death “shouldn’t have happened,” adding that the young man did “everything he could reasonably do” to warn the restaurant.

He said: “It seems there was a 10 to 15 minute gap before the pen could be used. I have no evidence to tell me if it would have made a difference in terms of outcome.

“I suspect there are a lot of factors to consider, the amount of sesame and absorption factors.

“It seems very clear to me that Joe did everything he could reasonably have done to warn the restaurant not to serve him any food with sesame seeds and even checked himself out.

“The staff did not handle our situation as it was. There was no basic first aid or knowledge.”

Joe became increasingly unable to breathe and doctors at the local hospital were unable to revive him. He died that evening.

Mr Taylor added: “The staff told him to drink some honey and lemon juice and he did so to appear to keep them calm.

“And it’s very clear to me that it was the sesame in the restaurant’s dishes that caused the allergic reaction.

‘Joe acted unknowingly by eating the food with sesame seeds causing the fatal reaction.

‘That should not have happened.’

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Justin Scacco

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