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Pret a Manger allergy death: Coroner says labelling failed to warn teenager about allergen that killed her

'There was no specific allergen information on the baguette packaging or on the (food display cabinet) and Natasha was reassured by that,' says coroner

Jon Di Paolo
Friday 28 September 2018 11:49 BST
The family of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse: 'If Pret A Manger were following the law, then the law was playing Russian roulette with our daughters life'

Pret a Manger's food labelling failed to warn a 15-year-old girl who died after eating one of its baguettes that the sandwich contained allergens, an inquest has heard.

Concluding the hearing into the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, coroner Dr Sean Cummings recorded a narrative verdict, finding that the teenager was "reassured" by the lack of specific warnings on the packaging.

"Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died of anaphylaxis in Nice on July 17, 2016, after eating a baguette purchased from Pret a Manger at London Heathrow's Terminal 5," he said.

"The baguette was manufactured to Pret specifications and contained sesame to which she was allergic.

"There was no specific allergen information on the baguette packaging or on the (food display cabinet) and Natasha was reassured by that."

Natasha was on her way to a four-day break in France with her father and best friend when she bought an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette from the Pret at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5 in Juuly 2016.

She boarded a British Airways flight from London to Nice but after eating the sandwich her throat started to tighten and red hives flared up across her skin.

Her father previously told the inquest how he had rushed her to the toilet and tried to treat her as the symptoms worsened.

“We waited a couple of minutes to see how she reacted,” Nadim Ednan-Laperouse said in a statement to the hearing.

“She said she couldn’t breathe properly and it was getting worse and urged me to get the second epipen right away.

“Natasha said that she still couldn’t breathe and desperately looked at me, she said ‘Daddy, help me, I can’t breathe’”.

Crew members and a junior doctor who happened to be on board performed CPR until the plane landed in France, the inquest subsequently heard.

However, Natasha was taken to hospital, where doctors told Mr Ednan-Laperouse that it was unlikely his daughter would survive and he then put a phone to his daughter’s ear so that her mother and brother could say goodbye.

"The pain and agony of the call was beyond anything I have known,” the statement said.

"How could it be that such a terrible thing could have happened when we were so careful with food?”

During the inquest, it emerged that a "specific warning" about the dangers of not signposting the allergen had been given to the food chain the previous year.

Pret baguettes described as "posh" or "artisan" were said to contain sesame seeds, including the one that Natasha ate.

A complaint log for the company from between July 17, 2015 and June 29, 2016 showed nine cases of sesame-related allergy incidents.

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 within its fridges that tells customers to ask staff for allergy information.

Under EU regulations, food 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 and was supposed to have stickers within fridges telling customers to ask staff members for details, the inquest heard.

British Airways cabin crew were questioned over their response after the inquest heard that the on-board defibrillator was not used in-flight.

Mario Ballestri, who helped junior doctor Thomas Pearson-Jones as he performed CPR on Natasha, said it would have been too dangerous to get the device from the other end of the aircraft when she went into cardiac arrest minutes before landing

Dr Cummings has said he will make a report to Environment Secretary Michael Gove over whether large businesses should be able to benefit from regulations that allow reduced food labelling for products made in shops.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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