Inquest into girl’s death after eating Pret baguette must be ‘watershed moment’

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The family of a teenager who died after suffering a fatal allergic reaction to a Pret A Manger sandwich said they hope the inquest into her death will serve as a “watershed moment” to save lives.

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, collapsed on a British Airways flight from London to Nice in July 2016.

A video of her smiling, putting her thumbs up to the camera and holding hands with her friend moments before she fell ill was released by her family after Coroner Dr Sean Cummings recorded a narrative conclusion at West London Coroner’s Court on Friday.

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse
A still taken from a video of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse before she fell ill on the flight (Family handout/PA)

Mr Ednan-Laperouse, 53, wept as he said: “Terrible.”

Reading a statement to reporters outside court, along with his wife Tanya, 51, and son Alex, 15, he said they believed the inquest showed Natasha had died because of “inadequate food labelling laws”.

“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,” he said.

“It’s clear that the food labelling laws as they stand today are not fit for purpose and it is now time to change the law.

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse inquest
Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, with their son Alex, outside West London Coroner’s Court, arriving for the conclusion of the inquest (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The coroner criticised Pret for the firm’s approach to allergen labelling information at the time and raised concerns over the adequacy of food regulations.

He 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.

Pret a Manger chief executive Clive Schlee
Pret a Manger chief executive Clive Schlee speaks to the press outside court (Jonathan Brady/PA)

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”.

Natasha with her family
Natasha with her brother Alex and parents Nadim and Tanya (Family handout/PA)

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.

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse inquest
The Pret A Manger shop in Heathrow’s Terminal 5 (PA)

The coroner said measures so far taken by Pret in relation to collecting information on allergic reactions and responding to serious concerns are “insufficient”.

Natasha suffered from numerous allergies and reacted badly to the sesame seeds in the Pret sandwich, which caused her throat to tighten and vicious red hives to flare up across her midriff, eventually triggering cardiac arrest.

Two epipens were jabbed into her legs, but the symptoms did not abate and she was declared dead the same day at a hospital in Nice.

Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, with their son Alex, speaking to the press outside court
Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, with their son Alex, speaking to the press outside court (Jonathan Brady/PA)

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 coroner said that although he felt this had been an “omission” by BA staff, it would not have changed the outcome, and he praised cabin crew and Mr Pearson-Jones for their response.

The inquest heard that a defibrillator was used on Natasha after landing when Nice paramedics arrived.

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