Coroner calls for stricter reporting around allergic reactions after Pret A Manger deaths

05 December 2022 by
Coroner calls for stricter reporting around allergic reactions after Pret A Manger deaths

The family of a woman who died after eating a Pret A Manger sandwich have welcomed a coroner's report calling for stricter reporting around allergic reactions.

Celia Marsh, 42, died in 2017 after eating a super veg vegan wrap which was marked as ‘dairy free' and ‘vegan' but was contaminated with milk.

The yoghurt dressing in the wrap was later found to contain traces of milk protein stemming from starch manufactured in a facility handling dairy products.

Coroner Maria Voisin made several recommendations in a prevention of future deaths report following Marsh's inquest.

It suggested that hospitals should be required to report cases of near fatal or fatal anaphylactic reactions to local councils or health protection teams.

This could be similar to the mandatory reporting system that is currently used for other ‘notifiable diseases' such as food poisoning and could mean incidents are dealt with more quickly, the report said.

Voisin also raised concerns that the terms ‘free-from' and ‘vegan' could be potentially misleading to the public and called for a more "robust" system to confirm the absence of certain allergens.

She suggested hospitality businesses, as well as the Food Standards Agency (FSA), clarify that foods labelled as ‘free-from' certain allergens may not be safe for those with allergies to consume.

The report was sent to British hospitality representatives and organisations including the FSA, the British Retail Consortium, the Food and Drink Federation and the Department for Health and Social Care.

Marsh's family welcomed the report as the "next step in our fight to make the world a safe place for allergy sufferers like our beloved mum and wife".

They added: "Above all, we hope that the FSA, UK Health Security Agency and the Department for Health and Social Care will now start working together to put in place a system for mandatory reporting of fatal and near fatal anaphylactic reactions to allow the public to be alerted of unsafe allergen products and provide an accurate record of such incidents.

"The coroner has required responses from a wider range of organisations and we very much hope that those organisations consider and take action on these suggestions as soon as possible."

Marsh's death followed that of 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died in 2016 after eating a Pret A Manger baguette containing sesame seeds bought from Heathrow Airport.

The tragedy sparked an overhaul of food labelling laws which now requires retailers to display full ingredient and allergen labelling on every food item made on the premises and pre-packed for direct sale, including sandwiches, cakes, and salads.

Natasha's mother Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, co-founder of the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, said the suggestions in Voisin's coroner's report could "save lives".

She added: "Nothing will ever bring Celia back and the grief endured by her family will always remain. But the coroner's clear and concise recommendations should herald a transformation of the way anaphylaxis cases are dealt with in this country and mean that Celia's death was not in vain."

Image: Alena Veasey / Shutterstock

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