ONE in four takeaway meals may be contaminated with peanuts, including some at “fatal levels”, for allergy-sufferers, tests have revealed.

Following the death in January of a bar manager who was allergic to peanuts, North Yorkshire County Council carried out tests across the county.

Analysis of 47 formal samples of supposedly peanut-free meals revealed more than a quarter were contaminated with peanut in varying degrees.

County Councillor Chris Metcalfe, council executive member for trading standards, said: “These are extremely concerning findings and we will be following up these sample tests with advice or further formal investigations.

“We cannot stress strongly enough that people with a known peanut allergy must be especially vigilant and must seek absolute assurances that the meals they have bought do not contain peanuts or traces of peanuts.

“For those affected by these intolerances it can literally be a matter of life and death.”

The warning from trading standards bosses followed a major investigation into the death of 38-year-old bar manager Paul Wilson.

Mr Wiilson was found dead in his living quarters at The Oak Tree Inn, Helperby, on January 30 after eating a takeaway meal.

After a 51-year-old and a 38-year-old were arrested in connection with the tragedy it was linked to a scandal in which restaurants substitute almonds in dishes for much cheaper peanuts.

Peanuts and almonds come from seperate food groups; peanuts are cultvated underground while almonds grew on trees. It is possible for allergy sufferers to have a reaction to both but peanut allergies are much more common.

Today the county council warned takeaway customers to seek assurances from restaurant and cafe bosses that their meals were peanut free.

Tough new labelling requirements for catering establishments to protect vulnerable customers are coming into force next December.