Teen schoolgirl with severe food allergies died after eating baguette from Pret a Manger on plane
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse checked labelling but sesame was not listed, father tells inquest
A father whose 15-year-old daughter with severe food allergies died after eating a baguette from Pret a Manger has told an inquest that the food chain is to blame for its failure to list allergens.
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse was travelling with her father and a school friend from London to Nice when she collapsed during a British Airways flight on July 17, 2016.
After treatment on the plane and at the airport failed to revive her, she was taken to a French hospital but, with no prospect of recovery, her life support was switched off later that day.
An inquest into her death at west London Coroner's Court on Monday heard that soon before boarding the plane, after carefully checking the label herself and then getting her father to double-check, the teenager ate an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette bought from a Pret a Manger shop in Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport.
In his statement, read to the court by the family lawyer, Jeremy Hyam QC, Natasha’s father, Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, said that at one stage while receiving treatment his daughter had vomited the red filling of the sandwich.
As she lay in hospital, he said he “instinctively knew that Natasha was dying due to something contained in the Pret baguette”.
He said he called his own mother from the hospital and asked her to buy the same baguette from her local store in Fulham, which she did.
She also found no allergens listed in the ingredients or any warnings displayed around the store. It was only when she consulted a folder encased in plastic at the store that she saw the product contained sesame seeds in the baguette dough, he said.
Ednan-Laperouse said: “When my mother called and told me that the baguette contained sesame, I was taken aback … I was completely horrified. It was their fault … I was stunned that a big food company like Pret could mislabel a sandwich and this could cause my daughter to die.”
Ednan-Laperouse’s statement and oral evidence given later told how Natasha began to itch three minutes after eating the sandwich.
She took some liquid antihistamine and did so again when the same symptom presented itself on the flight, the inquest heard.
Her father said she went to the toilet.
“She said: ‘Daddy, I’m not feeling well’ … she lifted up her top and showed me red welts … like lacerations,” said Ednan-Laperouse.
Her father administered two EpiPens but her health did not improve. Ednan Laperouse said: “She said: ‘Daddy, help me, I can’t breathe.’”
He told her he loved her but she lost consciousness and began foaming at the mouth, the court heard. Oxygen was administered through a mask and CPR.
Ednan-Laperouse said that when they reached Nice airport both the defibrillator and oxygen machine were not working properly.
Natasha was taken to hospital but Ednan-Laperouse was eventually told she would not survive and had to make calls to family members that were “the worst of my life”.
He said: “Each of them (the family members) was completely overwhelmed.”
He held a phone to Natasha’s ear so her mother and brother could say goodbye and “cut a lock of Natasha’s long brown hair to keep … with much pain and suffering I told Natasha that we would love her forever and never forget her”.
Her father said that, because of her multiple severe food allergies, they had watched what Natasha ate “like a hawk”.
Under questioning from Oliver Campbell QC for Pret, he said it was possible but “unlikely” he could have missed allergen warning signs around the store.
Ednan-Laperouse said that the ingredients, but not sesame seeds, were listed on the packet. However, Campbell told the court that Pret never lists ingredients on its packets.
Aboulaye-Djouma Diallo, who was manager of the Pret store where Natasha bought the baguette before her death, concurred with Campbell that ingredients were not listed on Pret sandwiches.
Under questioning, he said he was confident that the stickers providing allergen guidance were displayed as required in the upper right-hand corner of each refrigerated display cabinet and on each till.
“I remember putting them myself and I do (sic) check them daily,” he said.
But Hyam suggested that a number of sticker orders made from September 2016 onwards were not ordered as replacements but because none had yet been put in place.
The family’s lawyer said a photograph at the store taken eight days after Natasha’s death suggested no sticker was in place.
Hyam also said that a visitor to the store in May 2017 found “there were no till stickers to be seen at the till area”.
In a statement, a spokesman for Pret said: “We were deeply saddened to hear about Natasha’s tragic death and our heartfelt thoughts are with her family and friends. We take food allergies and how allergen information is provided to our customers extremely seriously. We will continue to do all that we can to assist the coroner’s inquest.”
The inquest is expected to last until Friday.