Government to review food labelling law after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse Pret a Manger death

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Martha Fairlie

Environment Secretary Michael Gove says the Government is "urgently" reviewing food safety and labelling laws following the death of a 15-year-old girl who suffered an allergic reaction after eating a Pret a Manger baguette .

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse collapsed on a British Airways flight from London to Nice in July 2016.

Her family want the law to be changed to ensure all pre-packaged food clearly shows what allergens are in the ingredients.

Mr Gove said it would be a "fitting tribute" to the schoolgirl to call any legislative changes "Natasha's law".

"To lose a daughter, to lose anyone in circumstances like that is heart-rending so I think they’re absolutely right to say that the law needs to be addressed," he said.

"We’re already looking at how we can review labelling in order to keep people safe but this tragic case only underlines the importance of acting urgently."

While Mr Gove could not give a time frame for any law changes, he said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was looking into what could be done and "how we could review the law".

Under current food regulations, non pre-packaged fresh food made on the premises does not need to be individually labelled with allergen or ingredient information.

While laws such as this are intended to help small businesses, they also apply to large companies such as Pret too. Due to this, Natasha unknowingly ate a baguette which contained sesames - a food she was allergic to.

Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse with their son Alex outside West London Coroner’s Court Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

Her father, Nadim - who was with his daughter when she fell ill - said current food labelling laws had played "Russian Roulette" with his daughter's life, and they were a "time bomb just waiting to go off", which puts allergy sufferers at risk "every minute of every hour".

Mr Gove said that as well as the "loophole which needs to be addressed...we need to look at the whole suit of protections that we give people in order to ensure that all of us can feel safe when buying food, and that our children are safe as well... to ensure that we've got safe food that everyone should have a right to."

Earlier on Monday, Mr Ednan-Laperouse told ITV News that calling any changes to the law "Natasha's law would be an honouring and befitting thing to come from this tragedy".

The Environment Secretary agreed, saying naming any law changes in honour of the 15-year-old "would be an immensely fitting and appropriate tribute to recognise the campaigning work of Natasha's parents and to recognise this tragic loss which has broken their hearts.

"If something good can come out of it, if we can remember her memory in a way which means there's a law which provides protection, then I think that would be a lovely thing."

Natasha's mother Tanya explained the law they would like to see enforced "as fast as possible" by the Government.

"Everything on sale in a shop would have a label on it and it would inform the consumer what allergies were in that food. That would be right across the board and right across the country," she said.

Mr Ednan-Laperouse said he hadn't been in contact with Mr Gove, but said he understood the Government would be looking at the law "as a matter of importance".

The family warns however that with the time involved in changing a law, many people are still at imminent risk of having a serious allergic reaction if businesses don't do their bit now.

"Any responsible company or business that's involved in food should be looking at themselves and their food since last week, and looking at what they can do, even in the most common sense way that seems only human to tell people what allergic ingredients are in a sandwich."

Natasha had been on her way to a four-day break in France with her father and best friend when she bought an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette from Pret as they passed through Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5.

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died in July last year. Credit: Family Handout/Press Association

Pret boss Clive Schlee said the food chain was “deeply sorry” for her death after Coroner Dr Sean Cummings recorded a narrative conclusion at West London Coroner’s Court on Friday.

Mr Schlee said Pret wants to see “meaningful change” come from the tragedy.

Pret A Manger chief executive Clive Schlee speaks to the press outside West London Coroner’s Court on Friday. Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

Mrs Ednan-Laperouse told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “If you met Natasha you’d remember her. She had a crazy sense of humour. She was 15, she loved life, she loved boys, she liked her friends, she was a really good sister, a really, really good sister.

“She was just…she would try anything. She had been up in a microlight when she was 10 years old, she took the wheel, she wanted to be a pilot. It’s so ironic. She had big dreams.”