Pret was shamed today as a coroner blasted their ‘inadequate’ packaging after the death of an allergic 15-year-old whose father accused them of ‘playing Russian Roulette’ with her life.
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse was falsely ‘reassured’ before she collapsed and died after eating a baguette laced with sesame seeds.
Today her father Nadim sobbed as coroner Dr Sean Cummings said the food store did not think monitoring potentially fatal food allergens was ‘something to be taken seriously’.
With her brother Alex clutching a picture of his sister outside West London Coroner’s Court, Mr Ednan-Laperouse said: ‘If Pret was following the law – then the law was playing Russian Roulette with my daughter’s life’.
He added that the tragedy of Natasha’s death ‘should serve as a watershed moment to make meaningful change to save lives’.
The Coroner, sitting in west London, will now write to Environment Secretary Michael Gove asking him to consider if big businesses like Pret should benefit from food labelling regulations meant for small sandwich shops.
Currently any food company that hand assembles sandwiches in store do not have to be individually labelled with allergen or ingredient information – just the fillings.
The brother, mother and father of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse today urged a law change after her tragic death
Natasha, 15 (pictured), died of a severe allergic reaction after she bought the artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette from a shop at Heathrow Terminal 5 but was feeling ill within minutes
Natasha, who was on a dream trip to Nice with her father and best friend, bought the artichoke, olive and tapenade in Heathrow Terminal 5 and died hours later after suffering a cardiac arrest on a BA flight to France.
Dr Cummings today slammed her ‘terrible’ ordeal on the BA flight where heart stopped but cabin crew said it was too dangerous to get a defibrillator because they were descending to land.
In a message for her overwhelmed father, mother and brother he said: ‘I can’t imagine how this was for you on that day’.
Dr Sean Cummings used his ruling to slam Pret, which sells millions of sandwiches every year, and said its allergy information on wrappers and in store stickers were ‘inadequate’ when Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, died.
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, who was allergic to sesame, died after eating a Pret baguette that didn’t list it as an ingredient
He recorded a narrative conclusion at the inquest into Natasha’s death at WestLondon Coroner’s Court today.
Delivering his conclusion Dr Cummings said: ‘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.
‘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.’
The coroner 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.
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, collapsed on a flight from London to Nice in July 2016 after suffering a fatal reaction to sesame seeds which were ‘hidden’ in the dough of an ‘artisan’ sandwich.
Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, with their son Alex, outside West London Coroners Court where a coroner said Pret packaging gave her the impression their sandwich would not kill her
The baguette she bought at Pret’s Heathrow Terminal 5 branch did not have sesame listed on the ingredients, her family say
She had been on her way to a four-day break in France with her millionaire businessman father and best friend when she bought an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5.
Pret didn’t have to list sesame on sandwich ingredients because it was made in store
Pret, one of the country’s biggest food chains, did not have to list sesame seeds as an ingredient in the £3.45 sandwich.
Pret products do not have to be individually labelled with allergen or ingredient information.
This is because Pret sandwiches are freshly prepared in store.
The loophole is supposed to free small, independent sandwich shops and cafe chains from onerous regulations applied to factory packaged foods.
Instead, signs on shelves and by tills in Pret stores tell customers with allergies to speak to a manager who is trained to give allergen advice.
Before hearing of the case, Pret had started to improve the allergen information it offers customers, but the inquest will explore whether more should be done.
Pret’s website now carries a list of allergens in its food and drinks, including highlighting sesame in the artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette.
But the teenager, who suffered from numerous allergies, reacted badly to the seeds, which caused her throat to tighten and vicious red hives to flare up across her midriff, eventually triggering cardiac arrest.
Mr Ednan-Laperouse jabbed two EpiPens into her legs and a junior doctor and a cabin crew member performed CPR but she was declared dead the same day at a hospital in Nice.
Her father has laid the blame of his 15-year-old daughter Natasha’s death on the sandwich chain after she collapsed on a British Airways flight and later died in hospital.
On the first day of her inquest, the millionaire businessman claimed the fatal reaction was a result of eating an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette which had sesame seeds ‘hidden’ in the dough.
He said the schoolgirl had carefully checked the ingredients as she had had serious food allergies all her life but there was no mention of the seeds.
In a statement read out in court, the founder and chief executive of WOW Toys, who was awarded an MBE in 2000, said: ‘It is the worst imaginable thing to happen as a parent.’
He said: ‘I was stunned that a big food company like Pret could mislabel a sandwich and this could cause my daughter to die.’
At one point, the family’s lawyer, Jeremy Hyam QC, became emotional as he read out the father’s devastating account at West London Coroner’s Court and paused to regain composure.
On July 17 2016, Natasha and her father, alongside her best friend Bethany Holloway, set off from their £1million house in Fulham for a four-night holiday in Nice, France, as a ‘special treat’.
With an hour to go before their flight left from Heathrow, they visited Pret a Manger in terminal five just after 7am and Natasha chose an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette.
Mr Ednan-Laperouse – who said he regarded it as ‘one of the better quality and responsible food outlets’ – told how she had ‘carefully’ checked the ingredients and had asked him to double check them.
The inquest heard how from a young age she had been trained to study ingredients because she was severely allergic to dairy, banana, sesame seeds, and nuts. As a result, he said she put ‘her trust in food labelling’.
He said: ‘There was no mention that sesame seeds were at all present in the baguette. I checked the fridge shelf and behind the counter and there was no allergy warnings to be seen.’
BA pilot Captain Richard Hunter described why he didn’t think the plane should divert while BA crew manager Mario Ballestri (left to right today) said it was ‘too dangerous’ to get the defibrillator on board because they were about to land
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.
The inquest heard that a defibrillator was used on Natasha after landing when Nice paramedics arrived.