Pret A Manger has said it will make “meaningful change” following the death of a teenager who suffered a fatal allergic reaction to one of its sandwiches.
The inquest into the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse heard the 15-year-old died on a British Airways flight from London to Nice in July 2016 after eating an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette bought at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5. The dough in the baguette contained sesame to which she was allergic.
Recording a narrative conclusion at West London Coroner’s Court on Friday (28 September), coroner Dr Sean Cummings said he will write to environment secretary Michael Gove questioning allergen food labelling regulations.
Under current regulations, there is no obligation for businesses to label allergens on foods prepared on the same premises as they are being sold. Companies are required to warn customers about allergy risks either on signs and packaging or orally, usually meaning they are told to inquire themselves. Pret chose to deliver allergy information orally.
"The baguette was manufactured to Pret specifications and contained sesame to which she was allergic,” said Cummings. "There was no specific allergen information on the baguette packaging or on the (food display cabinet) and Natasha was reassured by that."
During the week-long inquest, it was revealed that a Pret complaint log showed nine cases of sesame-related allergy incidents between July 17, 2015 and June 29, 2016. Four of these led to customers seeking hospital treatment, while another went to a medical centre.
More than a year after the complaint, Pret changed the design of a label in its fridges that tells customers to ask staff for allergy information.
In a statement issued following the inquest, Pret chief executive Clive Schlee said the business was deeply sorry for Natasha’s death.
“We cannot begin to comprehend the pain her family have gone through and the grief they continue to feel,” he added. “We have heard everything the coroner and Natasha’s family have said this week. And we will learn from this.
“All of us at Pret want to see meaningful change come from this tragedy. We will make sure that it does.”