Gove to meet parents of girl who died after Pret allergic reaction

Parents of girl, 15, who died after allergic reaction to Pret sandwich say stricter food labels could be in place by next summer after meeting Michael Gove about ‘Natasha’s law’

  • Natasha Ednan-Laperouse collapsed on flight from Heathrow to Nice in 2016 
  • 15-year-old ate sandwich containing sesame seeds, which she was allergic to
  • The girl, from Fulham, West London, was later pronounced dead in hospital
  • Packaging of baguette did not mention that the product contained the seeds

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse collapsed on board a flight from London to Nice in 2016

Stricter food labelling laws prompted by the death of a teenager who ate a Pret A Manger sandwich could be in place by next summer, her parents said today. 

The mother and father of 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse met with Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who told them he wanted ‘Natasha’s Law’ to be introduced next year. 

Natasha collapsed on board a flight to Nice in 2016 after eating a sandwich she bought at Heathrow Airport containing sesame seeds, which she was allergic to.

The girl, from Fulham, West London, was later pronounced dead in hospital.

The packaging of the artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette did not mention that the product contained the seeds and Natasha’s father Nadim said at an inquest that she died because of ‘inadequate food labelling laws’.   

Her parents, Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, met Mr Gove today to call for a law change requiring all foods to be labelled clearly with any allergens. 

Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse met Environment Secretary Michael Gove to call for a law change requiring all foods to be labelled clearly with any allergens

Mr Ednan-Laperouse said: ‘I think we are moving to a tipping point, a really crucial point… a fundamental point for things to actually change in society, for people to become conscious in their conversations and their thoughts about allergies.

‘So things that have previously been in the dark, are now going to come out into the light. And that’s really really important, and only good will come from that.’

He said of the meeting with Mr Gove: ‘It was so positive actually we were taken by surprise, and that’s a wonderful thing for us, in our situation and also for all the other people who have allergies in this country.’

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Mr Ednan-Laperouse said at an inquest earlier this month that his daughter died because of ‘inadequate food labelling laws’ as the packaging did not mention the baguette contained the seeds.

The family are calling for greater consistency in labelling and want products to be physically labelled with complete allergen information.

Mr Gove told the couple a full review would happen between now and Christmas, followed by a consultation, and that he ‘sees no reason’ why the new legislation could not be in place by summer – three years after the teenager died.

The parents said they have ‘every hope that Natasha’s law could be a reality’ by the end of 2019

He also told them he will be expecting and advising large companies, such as Pret, to be ahead of the curve by starting the labelling ‘as soon as possible’ before the law is fully in place, Natasha’s mother Tanya said.

She added: ‘He felt it’s the right thing that they should be doing and they should start doing it as soon as possible, because, he said, no-one should ever, ever suffer a death such as Natasha’s that could be so easily avoided.’

After the inquest into Natasha’s death, Pret announced that full ingredient labelling will be introduced to all products that are freshly made in its shop kitchens, and labels will list all ingredients, including allergens.

Mr Gove said it was ‘an honour’ to meet Natasha’s parents.

He said: ‘Since receiving the coroner’s report, we have been working at pace with the Food Standards Agency and businesses to review the current allergen labelling rules.

‘We are aiming to bring forward concrete proposals to change the law around the turn of the year.

Nadim and Natasha’s mother Tanya spoke to the BBC today about their hopes for the meeting

‘Natasha’s parents have suffered a terrible loss and yet have shown such tremendous strength and grace in their push for change. It was an honour to meet them today.’

Michelle Victor, the lawyer representing Mr and Mrs Ednan-Laperouse, added: ‘We welcome the minister’s determination to change the law in relation to food labelling. 

‘The family welcome the swift action that is being proposed with Natasha’s law potentially being implemented by July of next year.’ 

Earlier, the couple spoke to BBC Breakfast today about their hopes for the meeting with Mr Gove.

Mr Ednan-Laperouse said: ‘The meeting – which we welcome greatly with Michael Gove – it’s really, really simple what we as a family are looking for – and that is that the food labelling laws in this country come up to scratch. 

‘And by that I mean in particular all food that’s consumed by people here should be correctly labelled with the ingredients and the allergens – in particular food that is pre-packed for sale, so it comes wrapped up in packaging of any sort. 

The teenager ate a sandwich which she bought at this Pret store at London Heathrow Airport

‘People need to know what they’re eating, they really, really need to know what they’re eating.’

Her mother added: ‘We taught Natasha to trust labels, to trust ingredients. She learnt all the different words for different allergens. She could read a label and understand it by the time she was nine years old. 

‘There mustn’t be confusion with labels – it really does need to be standardised. If there is a label, it should be the same everywhere, and it should include all the ingredients and the allergens.

‘We personally don’t see why it’s such a problem to be able to do something like this quickly. 

‘We assume that food companies know where their food has come from – that they understand where the manufacturing process is, where they start, and what they end up having in the foods that they sell. 

‘So why would it be difficult to be able to label the ingredients on a simple sticker? It just doesn’t make sense, we just don’t get that, we don’t get the complication – and apparently there’s a large cost involved, and again we don’t really understand that either.’

Ben Pepper, senior solicitor in the complex injury department at Bolt Burdon Kemp, told MailOnline: ‘Michael Gove’s announcement today that Natasha’s law could be introduced before the summer will go some way to avoiding similar catastrophic events in the future by strengthening regulations where they have been just too weak to deal with tragic cases like Natasha’s.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has instructed civil servants to investigate a law change

‘These life threatening incidents mean that clearly more needs to be done by sellers to convey sufficient information and specific allergen advice to consumers. 

‘Restaurants and other food retailers must have a clear and consistent labelling system to ensure that their customers are aware of any potential allergens contained within their products. 

‘But beyond that, the onus should be on them to deal with any complaints promptly and implement adequate measures to avoid reoccurrences.’

Mr Gove said earlier this month he had instructed civil servants to investigate a law change after Natasha’s death highlighted the ‘importance of acting urgently’.

The Environment Secretary said the family was ‘absolutely right’ to say the law needs to be changed, adding: ‘I think their case is compelling and we need to act quickly in order to ensure that we have the best possible protection in place.’

In a statement yesterday, Natasha’s family said that they ‘look forward’ to meeting Mr Gove, adding: ‘We are extremely pleased by his reaction so far on this issue.’  

Pret announced earlier this month that it will include full ingredient labelling on all of its products.

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