Former FSA boss to chair advisory panel at Pret

Pret has appointed a former chief executive of the Food Standards Agency to set up a Food Advisory Panel within the company.

The group, which will include anaphylaxis campaigners and medical professionals among others, would help the sandwich chain examine all aspects of how it approaches the food safety issues associated with allergies, Pret CEO Clive Schlee wrote in a blog post.

The move follows the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, the 15-year-old girl who died after eating a Pret baguette made with dough containing sesame, to which she was allergic.

“Our aim is to find the clearest possible way of informing and protecting every customer,” Schlee said.

“Tim is a hugely experienced business leader and has spent his career working in the food industry. He and the Panel will provide a rigorous external perspective on the changes we need to make.”

Under current regulations, there is no obligation for businesses to label allergens on foods prepared on the same premises as they are being sold, but Pret has since overhauled its food labelling policy. It is preparing to place allergen awareness stickers on the packaging of all its sandwiches and salads next week and trialling the roll-out of full ingredient labels on all freshly prepared products at one of its shops in Victoria, London next month.

“Based on the findings from the trial and customer feedback, Tim and the Panel will produce clear recommendations on how Pret can best protect and inform customers with allergies for the future,” Schlee added.

Smith, who is currently an independent advisor and non-executive director of Cranswick, previously worked as Tesco’s group quality director between 2012 and 2017, where he led a team responsible for product development, responsible sourcing, standards, quality and food policy.

Prior to this, he worked as the UK Food Standards Agency chief executive for five years. During this tenure, he created the national food hygiene rating system and was widely credited for programmes to reduce salt in the nation’s diet and provide the best consumer information using front-of-pack colour code labelling.

Speaking in his role as chair of Pret’s Food Advisory Panel, Smith said: “We’ve all been struck by the recent rise in incidents caused by allergens in our food. Pret has recognised its responsibility to do what it can to deal with this as a priority, working in partnership across the industry. As we continue the progress already made, it’s clear that giving customers the best possible information will be top of our agenda.”

The inquest into Ednan-Laperouse’s death heard that a Pret complaint log showed nine cases of sesame-related allergy incidents between 17 July 2015 and 29 June 2016. Four of these had led to customers seeking hospital treatment, while another went to a medical centre.

Coroner Dr Sean Cummings, who recorded a narrative conclusion at the inquest, said at the time that he would write to environment secretary Michael Gove, questioning allergen food labelling regulations.

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