Pret ‘did not check dairy-free claims’ before woman with severe allergy died eating wrap

Pret a Manger neglected to check its supplier’s claim to be providing dairy-free products before a woman died after eating a wrap sold as vegan by the sandwich chain, an inquest heard.

Avon Coroner’s Court is investigating the death of Celia Marsh, who had a fatal allergic reaction shortly after eating a “super-veg rainbow flatbread” bought from the Pret outlet in Bath on 27 December 2017.

The wrap had contained yoghurt which was supposed to be vegan but was later found to contain traces of dairy protein.

The yoghurt was produced by Planet Coconut, which is the UK manufacturer and distributor of products developed by Australia-based yoghurt company CoYo.

Kirsty Langford, a trading standards officer for Bath and North East Somerset Council, told the inquest Pret a Manger had not apparently conducted its own audit of the claims made by Planet Coconut.

She said a free-from claim on a product would ordinarily be supported by a risk assessment by the retailer checking all the processes and ingredients in the supply chain.

”You expect some sort of testing to be taking place,” she said, adding: “That may not itself be the responsibility of Pret A Manger but it would probably be Pret’s responsibility to ensure their supplier was undertaking some sort of testing.”

An examination of the yoghurt later found that it contained few ingredients, mainly coconut cream and HG1 starch from sugar giant Tate & Lyle.

The starch was identified as the possible source of the contamination. “Tate & Lyle had never said the HG1 starch was suitable for a dairy-free claim,” Ms Langford said.

Ms Langford said Tate & Lyle had said the information concerning the risk of contamination in its products was passed to Planet Coconut, while Planet Coconut said it was not.

The court heard evidence that the trace of milk in the flatbread was so small, that it would only be expected to have an effect on around 5 per cent of people with the most acute dairy allergy.

Marsh’s husband Andy said his wife “religiously” avoided dairy after a near-fatal incident a few months previously in which she needed 15 shots of adrenalin. Marsh was on a post-Christmas shopping trip with her husband and three of her daughters at the time of her death.

The inquest at Ashton Court Mansion House in Bristol is expected to continue for two to three weeks. Wednesday’s hearing also heard that food standards officers found no evidence cross contamination had occurred within Pret’s Bath store’s kitchen.

Marsh’s death followed that of 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who sparked an overhaul of food labelling laws when she died in 2016 after eating a Pret baguette containing sesame seeds, which she was allergic to.

Andy and Celia in an undated photo provided by the Marsh’s legal representatives

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