Two years ago Natasha Ednan-Laperouse was 15 when she collapsed on a British Airways flight from London to Nice (on July 17, 2016) after eating a baguette, which contained sesame seeds, bought from the Heathrow airport branch of Prêt a Manger.
Its packaging bore no allergen advice, which was not required by law because the food was made on-site at the branch and there were general notices posted around the shop.
The coroner’s calls to strengthen the legislation were backed by Natasha’s family, who described current regulation as like “Russian roulette”. The charity Allergy UK also declared that existing rules “do not go far enough”.
In June 2017 I wrote the following article for a national newspaper:
“Is there a difference between an allergy and an intolerance? Of course there is. After all , we do not refer to Gluten free or Lactose intolerant as allergies, people are just better off without the things that cause them problems. Restaurants are aware of this now, more than ever before. Sandwich group Prêt a Manger has seen sales grow 15% to £776.2m, they claim driven by sales in dairy- and gluten-free ranges. They introduced a number of dairy-free products in 2016, including a dairy-free, gluten-free soup range all under 250 calories. This recent offering increased UK soup sales by 16% like-for-like. Their dairy-free, coconut porridge, accounts for one in five porridge sales in the UK, and now coconut milk sales exceed soya milk.”
ALLERGIES — LOVE ‘EM OR HATE ‘EM they are now part of our lives! When we were younger, I can’t remember anyone having food allergies can you? But then I suppose children died from anaphylactic shock without anyone knowing.
What some people considered ‘fads’ are now being recognised as healthy options. We all know people allergic to nuts for instance. I have a friend that suffered from an allergy to pine-nuts. Not any other, just them. More women than men go gluten free. Celiacs have different sorts of reactions from what they consume than others. Lactose intolerant is another. I had a friend who was allergic to garlic. He only had to smell it and he would come out in a rash. He’s in good company, my friend and colleague, wine aficionado Pancho Campo reacts to garlic and onions. Difficult for a man that loves the Mediterranean diet!! Thankfully he is not allergic to wine!! However a wine merchant friend of mine loves red wine but it gives her an unpleasant reaction, so she has to avoid it.
In this day and age, any restaurant worth its salt grinder has now got allergy symbols on their menus. But is it the responsibility of restaurateurs to inform the clients of the ingredients in every dish? It’s good that the symbols reflect certain allergies and intolerances, Celiac, Lactose, nuts etc. but I know someone who is allergic — yes allergic — to Coriander. But not to Flat Parsley, which is the same family!! And just because it says “Nut Free” my dear friend with the Pine-nut allergy had to always inform the restaurant that, and sometimes they still used to put ‘Pesto’ on his dish!!
So while the restaurant has to legally be responsible for allergy training with their staff, they can’t go the whole hog without the client informing them. So, no matter how obvious your allergy maybe to you, please inform the restaurant. Had the beautiful young Natasha informed Prêt, maybe they would have known or maybe not. But with allergies becoming one of the industry’s greatest fears, businesses with the financial strength of someone like Prêt a Manger should ensure their products carry labels that include the last grain of salt.
THE SAD FOOTNOTE TO THIS is while the poor girl lay dying on the deck of the airplane, going into cardiac arrest, the BA steward refused to use the on board defibrillator as it was against company policy in states of emergency landings. Guess someone is going to haul someone over the coals for that stupid decision. I feel sorry for the steward, he will live with that the rest of his life, especially when the young girl is crying out to her father as her breathing became impossible, “Help Daddy, I don’t want to die”