Pret a Manger will list all its ingredients, including allergens, on freshly made products following the death of a 15-year-old girl who had an allergic reaction to a sandwich containing sesame seeds, to which she was allergic.
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse fell ill on a British Airways flight to Nice, France after buying an olive tapenade and artichoke baguette from a branch of Pret a Manger at London Heathrow Airport. She died later of anaphylactic shock, a UK medical coroner ruled last week.
Pret a Manger Chief Executive Clive Schlee said in a statement that the fast-food chain was “deeply sorry” for her death and hopes the food-labeling measures “set us on course to drive change in the industry so people with allergies are as protected and informed as possible.”
The company will begin a trial of full ingredient labeling from November and in the coming weeks will ensure that “prominent allergen warning stickers are placed on all individual freshly made products” and add additional allergen warning signs in shops, it said in a statement seen by CNN.
Coroner Sean Cummings said that Pret a Manger’s labeling was “inadequate.” “There was no specific allergen information on the baguette packaging or on the (food display cabinet) and Natasha was reassured by that,” Cummings said on September 28.
Cardiac arrest on plane
Around 25 minutes into the flight Natasha’s throat became itchy, her face went red and then hives appeared on her body, the coroner said.
Her father used Epipen injections, which are used to treat severe and life-threatening allergic reactions, but the teenager’s condition continued to deteriorate.
She said “daddy, help me, I can’t breathe,” the coroner wrote. Oxygen was provided but Natasha lost consciousness.
As the plane came in to land she suffered a cardiac arrest, and she died despite a doctor’s attempts to revive her and the use of a defibrillator at Nice airport.
BA crew had not told the doctor that there was a defibrillator on board the aircraft. “Whilst I consider this to be an omission on the part of the BA crew, I do not believe this made a material difference to the outcome,” the coroner said.
Pret says an “allergen guide” is available for consultation in all stores and online. In line with UK regulatory requirements for food labeling, there is allergen signage on refrigerators and at checkouts that direct patrons to ask store managers about allergens.
Her family issued a statement after the coroner’s report saying the “inquest has shown that she died because of inadequate food labeling laws.”
“We were also shocked to learn that there have been a number of previous serious allergic incidents, involving sesame seeds in Pret a Manger food, before our daughter died. It feels to us that if Pret a Manger were following the law, then the law was playing Russian- Roulette with our daughter’s life,” the statement said.
“It is clear that food labeling laws as they stand are not fit for purpose and it is now time for the law to change. Natasha’s inquest should serve as a watershed moment to make meaningful change to save lives.”