Chain Knew of 21 Reactions to Its Food in Year Before Teen’s Fatal In-Flight Reaction

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in Food Allergy, News
Published: September 25, 2018
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse. Photo: Family Handout

Read about the findings of the inquest here.

Nine months before Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, purchased the sandwich that would lead to her death, a 17-year-old girl had suffered a life-threatening reaction to the same style of “artisan baguette” made by the same chain, Pret a Manger.

In both cases the triggering allergen was sesame, a West London coroner’s inquest into Natasha’s death heard on Sept. 25. The Guardian reports that the court was further informed that the company had a log documenting a total of 21 allergic reactions to its food in the year before Natasha died on July 17, 2016, following a severe in-flight reaction. Five of the people on the company’s log sought emergency medical care for their reactions.

Of these cases, nine involved sesame – and six appear to relate to the artisan baguettes, which have sesame baked into the dough. Sesame is required to be labeled under EU regulations – except in situations for foods that are made in on-site kitchens (such as Pret a Manger’s) and wrapped fresh daily.

This same exemption is allowed in the United States and Canada. And despite lobbying, the U.S. legislation still does not consider sesame a priority allergen.

The young woman who was 17 when she had the earlier reaction to Pret sandwich contacted the law firm representing Natasha’s family, according to The Telegraph. She told the lawyers she had nearly died and that her father, a doctor, helped to prevent that. Testimony showed that several of the other reactions were to Pret’s chocolate croissants, which were not overtly labeled as containing hazelnut. (Following a series of reactions, the product name was changed to “chocolate and hazelnut” croissants.)

Shortly before boarding her July 17, 2016 flight to Nice, France, Natasha purchased and ate an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette at the Pret shop in Heathrow Airport. Her father, Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, has testified that ingredients were shown on a sticker and that it gave “no indication or mention that sesame seeds were present.”

Once aboard the flight, Natasha told her father her throat was itchy and took some antihistamines. About 35 minutes later, Ednan-Laperouse says his daughter broke into angry welts on her abdomen and developed breathing difficulty. Epinephrine was administered, in two auto-injector doses, and a doctor on-board assisted and gave CPR. However, the girl lost consciousness and, after the plane landed, she died in the hospital in Nice.

Under questioning from Natasha’s family’s lawyer, The Guardian reports that Jonathan Perkins, the sandwich chain’s risk and compliance manager, testified that after the earlier reaction of the 17-year-old, Pret had conducted a review and increased its allergen signage to include allergen sticker warnings on fridges. However, Natasha’s father, Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, also testified that he hadn’t seen any such fridge stickers at the Heathrow Airport shop.

Perkins noted that his chain sells tens of millions of sandwiches and despite the tragedy and other reactions, “thousands of allergy sufferers who come through our doors and are able to shop safely.”

In a Tweet thread of his testimony, a Sky News television reporter cites Perkins saying:

Read more:
Opinion: Anaphylaxis in the Air – What We Learned from Natasha’s Allergy Tragedy
Teenager’s Fatal In-Flight Reaction Raises Food Allergy Labeling Loophole
After August Tragedies, Families Work to Increase Food Allergy Education