Chain Pret a Manger Promises Changes to Food Labeling Following Natasha Inquest

in Food Allergy, Food Allergy News
Published: October 3, 2018
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse. Photo: Facebook

Updated Oct. 4, 2018: Following the inquest into a British teenager’s anaphylactic death, gourmet sandwich shop Pret a Manger is making major changes to the way it labels fresh food in Britain. The sandwich chain has announced that, as of November, it will list all ingredients, including top allergens, on fresh foods prepared daily in its U.K. kitchens.

Fifteen-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse suffered a fatal anaphylactic reaction in 2016 aboard a flight after eating one of Pret’s artisan baguettes. Since her sandwich listed some ingredients, she and her father assumed it was safe to eat since her allergens, including sesame, were not listed. The baguette later turned out to contain sesame.

Like many people, they weren’t aware that while EU regulations stringently require the labeling of 14 top allergens including sesame, there is an exemption for such labeling for foods prepared in on-site kitchens (such as a sandwich shops or bakeries). Following the recent inquest, Clive Schlee, Pret a Manger’s chief executive, promised to make “meaningful changes” at the company’s U.K. outlets.

“I hope these measures set us on course to drive change in the industry so people with allergies are as protected and informed as possible,” Schlee said of the new labeling changes in an Oct. 3 statement. “Nothing is more important to Pret right now.”

In addition to full ingredients listings, Schlee says all Pret a Manger locations in the U.K. will soon have “prominent allergen warning stickers” on all freshly made products, as well as allergen warning signs in Pret shops.

While Schlee did not mention U.S. Pret outlets in his statement, a company media representative told Allergic Living on Oct. 4 that the allergen changes will be rolled out across Pret outlets worldwide. The spokesperson said the allergen warning stickers will be coming to U.S. shops shortly, with full ingredient and allergen labeling on foods to follow in the new year.

On Sept. 28, Coroner Dr. Sean Cummings concluded that died of anaphylaxis triggered by the Pret sandwich she purchased in Heathrow airport before boarding a British Airways flight on July 17, 2016 with her father, Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, and a friend. She collapsed on the flight from London to Nice, and died later in a French hospital.

At the inquest, Cummings expressed concern over allergen labeling laws and the compliance of a large company. “Overall, I was 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,” he said. (Read about the coroner’s findings here)

Based on Cummings findings, Michael Gove, the U.K. secretary for environment, food and rural affairs, has promised to act quickly to improve food labeling regulations. “I want to make sure that we get the right laws in place and we get them there quickly,” he told BBC Politics.

“Pret is also committed to working with others, including the government, regulatory authorities, charity groups and industry peers to secure legislative changes to better protect people with allergies,” said Schlee in Pret’s statement.

Opinion: Anaphylaxis in the Air – What We Learned from Natasha’s Allergy Tragedy