Council fined after vulnerable man choked to death on food

Fife Council has been fined £100,000 for safety breaches following the death of a vulnerable man who choked to death on a sandwich unsuitable for his prescribed diet.

In its role to support the care of those who live in supported living accommodation, Fife Council was responsible for the safe ingestion of food for 66-year-old Brian Millar.

On 4 June 2020, the resident of accommodation in Kirkcaldy was given a sandwich by a carer. Brian could only be given food that was carefully prepared to ensure it was soft and bite-sized.

Brian should also have been closely supervised to ensure his safety while eating.  However, the food was not suitably prepared and he was not closely observed. He choked on the sandwich and died.

At Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court on 23 April 2024, Fife Council, North Street, Glenrothes pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 3(1) and Section 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £100,000 and the Sheriff also directed that a Compensation Order of £50,000 be paid to Brian’s family.

 Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Kerry Cringan said: “It is tragic when a vulnerable person dies in circumstances which were completely avoidable.

“Sadly, it is not uncommon for us to be informed of deaths where people in care choke on high-risk foods that were not suitable for their diet.

“Care providers must be guided by speech and language therapy professionals and then ensure their staff are trained to understand what those recommendations mean.

“They should be aware that we will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those who fail to train staff in the importance of following modified texture diets.”


Notes to Editors:

  1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. We prevent work-related death, injury and ill health through regulatory actions that range from influencing behaviours across whole industry sectors through to targeted interventions on individual businesses. These activities are supported by globally recognised scientific expertise.
  2. More information about the legislation referred to in this case is available.
  3. Further details on the latest HSE news releases is available.