COYO Sued Over Fatal Anaphylaxis Incident Linked to Alleged Dairy Contamination

June 4, 2024

A Queensland-based “dairy-free” ice cream and yoghurt company, COYO, is at the center of a lawsuit following the death of a 42-year-old woman in the UK due to anaphylaxis. Court documents allege that COYO was informed years prior that its product wasn’t suitable to be marketed as “dairy-free.”

In 2014, COYO, founded by Sandra and Henry Gosling, licensed its product to Planet Coconut for exclusive manufacturing and sales in the UK and Ireland. The case revolves around the tragic incident in 2017 when Celia Marsh collapsed and died after consuming a wrap she believed to be dairy-free, which contained COYO’s yoghurt that later tested positive for milk protein.

Planet Coconut, COYO’s UK licensee, has filed a lawsuit against COYO in the Queensland Supreme Court, seeking up to $10 million in damages, claiming significant revenue loss due to the incident. In response, COYO has launched a counterclaim against Tate & Lyle ANZ, the company that produced the yoghurt stabiliser allegedly responsible for the contamination.

Allegations of Dairy Contamination

COYO claims the source of the contamination was the stabiliser manufactured by Tate & Lyle in the UK. The stabiliser was ordered from Tate & Lyle’s Wacol facility in Brisbane but produced in the UK. Court documents indicate that a product information form (PIF) issued to COYO in 2014 revealed that milk powder was used on the same production line as the stabiliser.

COYO alleges it was aware that the stabiliser might contain milk protein in a concentration of less than ten parts per million but argues that Tate & Lyle should have ensured the product met the required standards for dairy-free claims. Tate & Lyle’s defence asserts that COYO was warned about potential cross-contamination and knew it couldn’t make dairy-free claims about products containing the stabiliser.

Industry and Legal Repercussions

Maria Said, CEO of Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia, emphasized that any product labeled as free of an allergen must be entirely free of that allergen to ensure consumer safety. The case highlights the importance of accurate allergen labeling and the potential consequences of failing to meet these standards.

COYO maintains that the allegations are unfounded and has assured customers that all current products are dairy-free and meet the highest food safety standards. Tate & Lyle ANZ has stated they will respond through the legal process.

This case underscores the critical nature of allergen management in the food industry, especially as food allergies become increasingly common. It also coincides with Food Allergy Week, aimed at raising awareness about allergy safety.

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