The last words Tanya Ednan-Laperouse spoke to her daughter as she lay dying are etched on her memory.
Alone at a departure lounge at Stansted Airport, desperate but unable to reach her child’s hospital bedside 800 miles away in Nice, Tanya sobbed as her husband laid his mobile phone on the pillow by Natasha’s ear.
The machines monitoring 15-year-old Natasha’s vital signs were slowing and they knew for certain now that, heartbreakingly, there was no chance of survival.
Natasha had been unconscious for several hours, her organs were failing and her brain activity had faded.
Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse who have opened up about the devastating day they lost their daughter
Tanya told Natasha moments before she died: ‘Tashi, I love you so much, darling. I’ll be with you soon. I’ll be with you’
‘You’ve got to say goodbye to her now,’ her husband Nadim urged, his voice choked.
‘Don’t lose time. She’s going to die any minute. Say something. She might hear it.’
It took all the strength Tanya had not to crumble to the ground.
‘I said, “Tashi, I love you so much, darling. I’ll be with you soon. I’ll be with you.”
‘Because, when you’ve got children, you don’t want them to be without you, do you? They still need you. I fell to the ground. I couldn’t talk, I was engulfed with grief. I knew then she was gone – she was dead.’
The case of Natasha Ednan-Laperous, killed by a catastrophic allergic reaction to sesame seeds in a Pret A Manger baguette, has shocked the nation after what started as a summer treat turned to tragedy.
Accompanied by her father and best friend Bethany, Natasha had been on board a British Airways flight heading for a four-day break in Cote d’Azur, where her grandparents had an apartment, when she went into anaphylactic shock and suffered a cardiac arrest.
Despite the best efforts of her father, a junior doctor on board and medics in France, she died that evening. It was the first time she had been on holiday without her mother.
Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, who spoke to her daughter on the phone as she lay dying in hospital in Nice
Today, the pain of the last two years is plain to see.
Nadim 53, has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing his daughter’s horrifying death.
That it happened on his watch, after 15 years of vigilance will haunt him forever.
The coroner’s verdict this week was clear: it was not a failure of parenting which killed their daughter, but a failure of the nation’s food safety regulations.
But their feelings are overwhelming, all the same.
In an emotional interview with The Mail on Sunday, the first since she lost her daughter, Tanya, 51, recalls how keeping their daughter safe had become a normal way of life.
Despite no family history of allergies, Natasha suffered several terrifying reactions as a baby.
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
The brother, mother and father of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse urged a law change after her tragic death
The brother, mother and father of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse urged a law change after her tragic death
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
At nine months old, hospital tests found her to be allergic to tree nuts, dairy, tomatoes and eggs, and aged two she also reacted to sesame seeds in a breadstick.
Doctors warned the family to keep her away from anything which could prove to be an allergen.
This they did scrupulously. Anything potentially dangerous was removed from the house and the couple policed her food at children’s parties.
Such was her reaction to dairy products, she became ill even in response to milk particles in the air.
Parents had to be asked to air their homes before play dates and parties.
The family always carried their own food for her, the antihistamine piriton, and Epi-pens.
Thanks to their diligent care, Natasha had not suffered an anaphylactic reaction since the age of six – the only time Tanya has had to administer an Epi-pen to her daughter – when she ate a biscuit which they believe contained traces of nut, an ingredient not listed on the packaging.
‘This was before packaging had to declare whether products were made in factories which also processed allergens, which proves just how important such labelling actually is. People misunderstand this, but it can kill.’
The family released photos of them all together in happier times and described how Natasha was incredibly careful about what she ate because of the severity of her allergy
A Coroner said that Natasha would have been reassured that the baguette would be safe to eat – but it would actually kill her
Natasha pictured with her brother Alex, who attended every day of the inquest this week
This is the extraordinary image of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse on the BA flight shortly before she collapsed and died after eating a Pret baguette
That fateful morning in July 2016, the Pret in Heathrow Terminal 5 was busy.
‘Nadim trusted Natasha knew what to look for and she picked up this artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette,’ continues Tanya.
The group weren’t in a rush and, after a brief discussion, agreed the sandwich was safe.
Nadim is adamant there were no allergy signs on display that morning and that a label on the sandwich made no mention of sesame seeds.
Pret later denied the presence of such a label.
For Nadim, that moment is replayed over and over again in his mind. And the memory brings him to tears.
‘I hate myself for it. I blame myself,’ he says.
‘I really love my daughter, in a way that’s like one flesh. As a parent I’d die a thousand times, crucified, for her to live. I spent 15 years nurturing the most precious thing in my entire life.
Terrifying air ordeal that began just three minutes after Natasha bit into her sandwich
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, who was allergic to sesame, died after eating a Pret baguette that didn’t list it as an ingredient
July 17 2016: BA flight BA342 from Heathrow Terminal 5 to Nice lasted approximately 1 hour 50 mins.
9.50am: Natasha bought the sandwich and around developed an itchy throat arounnd three minutes later.
10.15am: After take off she took a dose of Piriton to try and counter the itchy throat.
10.45am: Natasha developed large red welts on her stomach and her father took her to the toilet and administered two EpiPens.
10.50am: Natasha loses consciousness.
10.55am until 11.45am: Doctor Pearson Jones attended to Natasha for the next 50 minutes, including CPR when she suffered a cardiac arrest while the flight was descending into Nice.
Midday: Five French paramedics attend to her while the plane is on the tarmac for around an hour. She is then transported to the local A&E department but her heart failed to properly restart.
8pm: Natasha is pronounced dead in hospital.
‘As a human being, there’s nothing more important than that. In that moment, how could it be that I failed her? I will live with that until I die, but so it is.
‘She died on my watch. I’m so glad she did, that it wasn’t Tanya’s watch because I don’t think she could have taken it. It would have been too much to bear.’
The events on that terrible flight are now well documented.
Minutes after eating the baguette Natasha developed an itchy throat, which quickly developed into angry welts, breathing problems and, finally, cardiac arrest.
Nadim called Tanya as soon as they landed.
‘Nad was crying and he said, “Tanya you’ve got to come out here. Natasha’s not well and something terrible has happened.”’
Tanya managed to book on a flight from Stansted leaving at 6pm.
‘I was getting constant updates from Nad, which kept getting worse. I was praying so hard.’
It was only because Tanya’s flight was delayed that she managed to say goodbye.
‘I couldn’t howl or scream or cry because I was in a situation surrounded by families and people.
‘All I wanted to do was put my arms around Nad. I felt so much of his pain with mine.’
The following day they visited the city mortuary to see Natasha’s body.
‘It didn’t look like her. Where was she? I hugged her and kissed her. She was gone. You really believe in a soul when you see that. But her body was all I had left.’
Initially, the couple believed the presence of sesame in Natasha’s baguette may have been accidental, a result of kitchen contamination.
But it quickly emerged that this was not, in fact, the case.
Nad said: ‘It was by design and neglect on a corporate scale. You kind of think, what? And it was sanctioned by law.
‘That’s when we got angry.’
Pret A Manger CEO Clive Schlee apologised and said change at the firm would occur
The baguette she bought at Pret’s Heathrow Terminal 5 branch did not have sesame listed on the ingredients, her family say
Last week, West London Coroner Sean Cummings criticised Pret for failing to properly alert customers to potentially fatal allergens, warning that their signs were ‘inadequate’.
Indeed, it emerged that Pret had warned nine times about the dangers of sesame in its products in the year before Natasha died.
Her father has accused the law of playing ‘Russian roulette’ with her life and so powerful has been the reaction to her death, the case could bring about wide-scale changes to the legislation which currently permits food products made on or near the premises to be exempt from allergy labelling.
‘We now know she didn’t die on our watch – she died on Pret’s watch, and all thanks to the absence of two little words on the packaging of her sandwich,’ says Tanya.
‘If the label had listed sesame seeds Natasha wouldn’t have touched it and she’d still be alive.’
It is a sign of a deeply rooted sense of dignity that they wish to avoid recriminations and, instead, see the future as an opportunity.
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.
These 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.
They are angry, yes. But they are determined to bring about change.
‘Now, Pret has got an opportunity to do something really good. They screwed up, yes,’ says Tanya.
‘But they could lobby for change to our labelling laws. Now they know it can’t continue. If they try to they’ll have a big fight on their hands, certainly from us.’
Both have suffered greatly in the two years since her death.
‘I spent a year on the sofa, I was in such deep shock,’ says Tanya. ‘I’d cry after Alex went to school. I’d find myself looking at photos of Natasha all day.
‘We haven’t touched her room. Her clothes are still on the floor. Her homework’s on the table.
‘I still look for her on the street, in public places. Adidas trainers, long dark hair in a bun. But she’s just lost. You don’t know how you carry on living.’
Nad says: ‘I was suicidal. I wrote two suicide letters. I thought I couldn’t cope. I felt it was so unfair, that she was on her own and I thought I could go and look after her. The agony, for a while, was too hard to bear.’
At Natasha’s funeral in November 2016, Nadim gave a speech in which he addressed his daughter directly.
He said: ‘Natasha, rest assured that your fire burns bright inside of me. I will seek justice for your death, and no matter what, for as long as it takes, I will achieve this.’
Both are now working again. A toy designer, Nadim runs his own toy company, Wow, where Tanya also works.
The inquest, when it finally came, was both a relief and an emotional rollercoaster.
‘Every day there was a shock, something we were unaware of,’ recalls Tanya.
‘The fact that Epi-pens may not be fit for purpose in some cases; that the cabin crew had to prioritise manning the doors in case of an emergency.
‘Society, our society as a whole, has to take allergies more seriously.
‘We obviously want a change to the labelling laws. Everything should be labelled wherever possible. Pret should not be excluded,’ she says.
‘There has to be a very clear line between what is a safe way of labelling and what is a little shop where you have to ask someone and make your own decision.
‘But any chain which uses packaging has to have a label on the sandwich. In Pret, it’s still on the display, not on the actual product.’
Coroner savages Pret for failures that doomed teenager who believed the baguette was safe
A coroner ha slammed Pret for the firm’s approach to allergen labelling information that led to Natasha’s death.
Dr Sean Cummings (pictured) said the food giant, which sells millions of sandwiches each year, didn’t take it seriously’.
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.
Dr Cummings said in his ruling: ‘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 said he would make a report to Environment Secretary Michael Gove over whether large businesses should be able to benefit from regulation 5 of the Food Information Regulations.
It allows for incomplete labelling of food products not requiring identification of allergens in bold labelling on the packet.
At the time, Pret relied on stickers on food display units highlighting that allergy information was available by asking staff or visiting the Pret website.
The coroner said that although regulators had assessed them as being within the law ‘I am of the view that they were inadequate in terms of visibility’.
He added: ‘Overall I am left with the impression that Pret had not addressed the fact that monitoring food allergy in a business selling more than 200 million items a year was something to be taken very seriously indeed.’
BA pilot Captain Richard Hunter (left) described why he didn’t think the plane should divert while BA crew manager Mario Ballestri said it was ‘too dangerous’ to get the defibrillator on board because they were about to land
Now, the family is considering making a civil claim against Pret A Manger.
‘We just had to get to this point first,’ says Tanya.
‘Our legal team at Leigh Day and Co, and our barrister, have been amazing. They’ve put so much of themselves into this. They took some of the horror away.
‘There’s a point now where there has to be some kind of healing. I feel like we’re moving now, and it hasn’t felt like that until now.
‘If anything’s kept us going it’s our son. But you really do have to when you have another child. We pulled together.’
Fury as Minister hijacks Pret girl’s death to score points over Brexit
Under fire: Margot James
A Tory Minister faced fury last night after claiming that Boris Johnson’s Brexit vision could lead to an increase in tragedies such as the teenager who died from an allergic reaction to a Pret A Manger sandwich.
Margot James was accused of exploiting the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse for political gain when she claimed that leaving the EU Single Market and signing a Canada-style free-trade deal would mean jettisoning food-safety standards that could prevent future deaths.
Ms Ednan-Laperouse, 15, suffered fatal cardiac shock on a British Airways flight after checking and finding no allergen warnings on the packaging of a baguette she bought prior to taking off.
The baguette contained sesame seeds she was allergic to.
An inquest into her death last week heard that Pret had exploited a loophole meant to help small sandwich shops, allowing them to leave ingredients labels off their food if it is produced on site.
Ms James, a Digital Minister, said that what ‘Boris is advocating as a solution for Brexit – this Canada free-trade deal, it is full of ideas as to what they would recommend post Brexit we do as a country, abandon all the EU’s food safety standards,’ before adding: ‘I think today with the news of that poor girl who died, I don’t think the public would wear that.’
She was condemned for her remarks by fellow Tory MPs. One, Andrew Bridgen, said: ‘That is appalling. This is a spurious attempt to exploit a teenager’s death for political gain. I thought Margot was better than that.
‘The idea that a sovereign British Parliament would not have its own effective rules on food standards is ridiculous.’
Natasha with her mother Tanya
Natasha was heading for a four-day break in the South of France with her father, Nadim, and a friend when she bought the baguette when the trio stopped at a Pret in Heathrow’s Terminal 5 before their flight in July 2016.
The group weren’t in a rush and, after a brief discussion, agreed the sandwich was safe for Natasha. Nadim is adamant there were no allergy signs on display that morning.
For him, that moment is replayed over and over again in his mind, the moment that – had they made a different choice – could have changed everything. And the memory brings him to tears. ‘I hate myself for it. I blame myself,’ he said.
Natasha went into anaphylactic shock during the flight. Despite the best efforts of her father, a junior doctor on board and medics in France, she died that evening in Nice after failing to regain consciousness.
The row over Ms James’ comments comes as Natasha’s grief-stricken mother, Tanya, told the Mail on Sunday of the devastating moment when she said goodbye to her daughter over the phone.