Coroner calls food labelling regulations ‘inadequate’
Dr Sean Cummings says he will write to the government to raise his concerns in the wake of Pret baguette death.
Coroner Dr Sean Cummings concluded an inquest in London last Friday, saying he would write to the government to raise concerns about “inadequate” food labelling regulations. The inquest took place following the death in 2016 of 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who was allergic to sesame. She died after eating a baguette purchased from a branch of Pret A Manger in Heathrow airport that did not list sesame on its packaging, despite containing it. Dr Cummings questioned why large businesses such as Pret A Manager should be able to benefit from regulations that permit reduced allergen warnings on freshly made products.
Natasha’s father, Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, said outside West London Coroner’s Court, “We believe that the inquest has shown that [Natasha] died because of inadequate food labelling laws.
“We were also shocked to learn that there have been a number of previous serious allergic incidents, involving sesame seeds in Pret A Manger food, before our daughter died.
“It feels to us that if Pret A Manger were following the law, then the law was playing Russian roulette with our daughter’s life.
“It is clear that food labelling laws as they stand are not fit for purpose and it is now time for the law to change. Natasha’s inquest should serve as a watershed moment to make meaningful change to save lives.”
Lawyer Jill Paterson of Leigh Day, which represented Natasha’s family, said “The law as it stands currently treats multinational companies in the same way as the local sandwich shop. This cannot be right,”
The Independent newspaper reported that, at the time of Natasha’s death, Pret relied on stickers on food display units highlighting that allergy information was available by asking staff or visiting the company’s website: “Although regulators assessed the arrangement as being within the law, the coroner said: ‘I am of the view that they were inadequate in terms of visibility’.”
Pret A Manger CEO Clive Schlee said that Pret wanted “meaningful change to come from this tragedy” and would, “…ensure that it does.”