Following a five-day inquest into the death of a 15 year old girl from Fulham, London, the coroner in the case is expected to approach Michael Gove, Environment Secretary, regarding so-called ‘gaps’ in food labelling regulation.
Miss Natasha Ednan-Laperouse collapsed in anaphylactic shock during a flight from London to Nice on 17 July 2016, and subsequently passed away in hospital from cardiac arrest, after consuming a baguette purchased from an airport Pret a Manger outlet.
In accordance with the labelling requirements of food produced on-site, the Pret sandwich – containing artichoke, olive and tapenade – is reported to have had no allergen advice on its wrapper, including no mention of sesame, which coroner Dr Séan Cummings has identified Ednan-Laperouse was allergic to.
Cummings has expressed serious concerns about the regulations which currently govern the labelling of food made in-store: it is deemed sufficient for general allergen warnings to be posted around the shop and promoted verbally by staff, with no stipulation of written warnings on packaging.
I was left with the impression that Pret had not addressed the fact that monitoring food allergy … was something to be taken very seriously indeed
“It seems on the face of it a bit strange that a local sandwich shop can benefit from that regulation … but that an organization that sold … 218m items [a year] could also benefit from that regulation.
“A cynic might think it was almost a device to get round regulation relating to information on food allergens.”
In his summary statement, Cummings noted: “I was left with the impression that Pret had not addressed the fact that monitoring food allergy … was something to be taken very seriously indeed.” Following the disclosure of complaints log between 2015 and 2016, which showed nine cases of sesame-related allergic reactions, Cummings added: “It seems some complaints were dealt with by customer services and some by Safety. Some were dealt with by a ‘gesture of goodwill’.”
Cummings stated he would address the issue with Gove in writing; Theresa May has since called for a review of food labelling.
Clive Schlee, chief executive, said Pret was ‘deeply sorry’, and that the food-to-go retailer would ‘learn from this tragedy and ensure meaningful changes happen’. The chain will now list all ingredients, including allergens, on its freshly made products.