A lawyer has warned of supply chain risks associated with effective allergen protocol for food businesses, claiming that reform is “urgently needed” to provide greater scrutiny over the process from manufacturer to store counter, as an inquest opens into the case of a woman who died after eating a Pret A Manger wrap.
Mother-of-five Celia Marsh, 42, from Melksham, Wiltshire, died on December 27 2017, after she ate a ‘super-veg rainbow flatbread’ from the chain’s store in Bath.
Her husband told an inquest, which began yesterday, that she collapsed in the street in front of her daughters and was unable to breathe after eating the wrap, before she later died, The Telegraph reports.
One of the ingredients in the wrap was yoghurt, which was supposed to be a vegan product but was later found to have traces of dairy protein.
The inquest, which is expected to last between two and three weeks, heard that Mrs Marsh had a severe dairy allergy and would avoid all products that contained dairy, following an allergic reaction that was nearly fatal just months before her death.
Jamie Cartwright, legal partner at Charles Russell Speechlys, said: “The tragic case of Celia Marsh is a case in point that ingredient labelling is only an aspect of an effective allergen protocol for food businesses. Natasha’s Law responded to a perceived lack of accessible information on ingredients for consumers on the product itself. It does not deal (nor was it intended to deal) with the broader risks from manufacturing through to fork or counter; these supply chain risks are real and sit at the heart of reform which is urgently needed to provide greater scrutiny.
“The industry has moved forward considerably since 2016 with additional understanding, awareness and processes in place to address allergens holistically, together with a mindset change for some who are now fully embracing the opportunities of catering to those with allergens and intolerances.”
Pret was charged with food safety failures following the death of Mrs Marsh, but the prosecution was subsequently dropped due to a lack of evidence. The high street chain said that it would fully cooperate with the inquest proceedings.
Natasha’s Law, which came into effect in the UK on 1 October 2021, requires all food outlets to provide full ingredient lists and clear allergen labelling on PPDS food which is prepared, pre-packed and offered or sold to consumers on the same premises.
The law was introduced following the death of 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who had a sesame allergy, and tragically died in 2016 after eating a baguette from Pret A Manger containing sesame seeds.