'Things need to change' - Family plea for stricter food tests after mum dies from allergic reaction

  • Ashleigh and Shanaye Grice appeared on ITV's Good Morning Britain

The daughters of a woman who died after eating a wrap which was contaminated with milk despite being labelled dairy free have made an emotional plea for stricter food testing.

Celia Marsh, a mother-of-five from Wiltshire, died from a severe allergic reaction after eating a vegan flatbread from a Pret a Manger store in Bath.

The 42-year-old Melksham mum was on a post-Christmas shopping trip in December 2017 with her husband and three of her daughters when she collapsed and suffered a fatal allergic reaction.

An inquest into her death concluded last week, and her family are now making a renewed call for stricter food labelling and testing to prevent other tragic deaths.

Celia’s eldest daughter Ashleigh Grice, who was joined by her sister Shanaye Grice, told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "She was so strict and religiously checked everything, so as a family it was a big part of our life.

"It was just so religious for her to double check, triple check, like she did that day when she purchased the wrap from Pret.

Celia Marsh, 42, died after eating a super-veg rainbow flatbread from a Pret a Manger store in Bath Credit: Leigh Day/PA

"The wrap itself had a list of ingredients on it and everything on there she knew she could have and then at the bottom it did say dairy free.

"So she thought that she was safe to eat that."

The inquest heard the wrap Celia ate in Bath had contained yoghurt which was supposed to be vegan but was later found to have traces of dairy protein in it.

Avon Coroner’s Court heard the yoghurt was produced by Planet Coconut, which is the UK manufacturer and distributor of products developed by Australia-based yoghurt company CoYo.

Ashleigh added: "It's just the fact that she trusted that it said it was dairy free and it wasn't dairy free and she was so careful, she could not have been any more careful.

"The fact that it resulted in the way it did, things need to change.

"There are quite a few things we want to change, the main thing is testing. We believe there needs to be vigorous testing throughout the whole supply chain from one company to another, and for the end product to guarantee that these people that are purchasing and trusting this labelling are safe."

The family lawyer, Michelle Victor, said: "The most important thing is that any company that is holding themselves as being dairy free or free-from need to adhere to the regulations.

"If you are making a claim that something is dairy free it needs to be exactly that, the line in which it needs to be made needs to dairy free.

"It is absolutely imperative that there is full transparency throughout the whole supply chain and that if there is anything even including the risk of contamination, that that information is passed on down the food chain."

Planet Coconut disputes the claim that they were made aware of the potential contamination and say that they did not believe that the product could contain dairy.

The family of Celia Marsh with their lawyers outside the coroner’s court Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

Following the inquest, Pret A Manger CEO Pano Christousaid: “As a father and husband, I can only imagine how distressing this has been for Celia’s children and family. Our deepest sympathies remain with everyone who knew and loved Celia.

“We fully support the coroner’s findings. As the coroner made clear, Planet Coconut had information which should have alerted them that their CoYo yoghurt may have contained milk and this information was not passed on to Pret.

"It goes without saying that if Pret had ever known that the CoYo yoghurt may have contained milk, we would have never used the ingredient.

“On Pret’s part, we have taken significant steps forward with our suppliers and labelling policies since 2017.

"Through the Pret Allergy Plan, we made a clear commitment to lead the industry in developing new policies for people with food allergies.

"We will continue to do everything we can to help every customer get the information they need to make the right choice for them.”