And why we need change. You cannot have failed to hear about the tragic death of a young fifteen year old girl, Natasha Ednan-Laparouse, who ate a baguette at Pret, Heathrow airport and died from an anaphylactic attack to unlabelled sesame.
Pret have just announced a second death… and I’m not joking… I only wish I was. Until laws change please all exercise extreme caution when eating out at fast food establishments.
You can read more here, “Pret A Manger to list ingredients on products after sesame allergy death”
It’s just so sad, and I have been crying with grief for her family and friends. It brings back the fear that this may happen to me one day or someone who is close to me. I know a lot of people with this condition. It’s worse because this was completely avoidable if Pret had taken the time to label the baguette with sesame which Natasha was allergic to.
The law says that establishments where food is prepared on the premises don’t have to label allergens on the package, but must be able to communicate this information verbally. If Natasha has asked for the ingredients, would she have been saved this terrible and unnecessary end to her life.
I will continue to raise awareness for better understanding of the seriousness of allergies and have probably been guilty of not doing enough to get this situation changed.
Having been interviewed ten times in the last few weeks by various radio stations about my views on these regulations and what needs to change including:
- 8.10pm – 24th September – BBC London
- 7.15am – 25th September – BBC Radio Scotland
- 4.30pm – 25th September – BBC Radio London (again – they must like me 🙂
- 4.20pm – 3rd October – Radio 5 Live
- 5.20pm – 3rd October – BBC back to backs with:
- BBC Radio Derby
- BBC Scotland
- BBC Solent
- BBC Northampton
- BBC Humberside
- BBC Hereford and Worcester
I can always rely on Radio 5 Live to ask the most pointed questions.
“Would it be safer if I and other people with serious life threatening allergies stayed at home?”
I hate it when people ask me this. I don’t ever just turn up somewhere without phoning and checking before hand unless it is one of the few faithful and truly caring establishments where I know I will be able to get a safe meal. And even then, I’ll get there early and make sure we have time for a full conversation to dissect each meal just to be safe.
It takes military planning as anyone with life threatening allergies or a child with them will know. I can be anything but the relaxing and enjoyable experience you wish for because you never quite know if the food on your plate is safe. There is a huge element of trust, in the waiting staff, in the chef, in the other kitchen staff involved in prepping, plating and delivering your meal. Generally I order things that I feel are pretty save like Ham, Egg and Chips or Steak and Chips. I have an allergy to nuts, dairy. wheat and soya so many, many options are off limits. But I take precautions and behave sensibly.
I do not think I should stay at home.
To be asked that is actually very offensive.
What sort of a life would that be? It would be safer, yes, but it would not be a life lived. It would a life survived and suffered. I love cooking but I do not relish the thought of having to cook every meal for the rest of my life.
Life is an adventure and I’m enjoying every minute of mine. I have to take risks. We all take them, every day. I know that I would not be happy if I never ate out. I would sad, unhappy, lonely and depressed.
Before asking a question like this, think about how you would feel if you had to live by the same restrictions. Would you ask a disabled person in a wheelchair to stay at home because it was too costly to adapt a premises to allow them access? Disabled access is now absolutely expected, as it should be, and I hope that one day, this attitude towards people with a life threatening allergy will change too. I can live in hope!
“What was I doing on my blog to raise awareness and demand change?”
This made me feel so guilty too because lately I haven’t been doing much to raise awareness. And whilst I was aware of the loop hole in the law, that grey area where labelling was not necessary, it doesn’t affect me. My allergies are so broad that I would never, or very rarely be able to buy a baguette on the go. I have too many allergies from too many major food groups to allow this, so it’s off limits. It’s not my problem. It’s off my radar. Boy did that make me feel awful.
But why should I feel guilty for not raising awareness?
It made me so sad. What if Natasha had known that this allergen might not be labelled. Would she still be here today?
How can we prevent anyone else making the same mistake?
My advice is never, ever to eat anything that COULD contain any of your allergen triggers if you haven’t seen the ingredients. If you need food on the go, bring something safe with you or choose simple options that you can guarantee are safe, like fruit, plain crisps, etc. or go to a shop that does uphold labelling laws like M&S, Tesco etc.
I am deeply saddened but also hopeful that others may follow Pret in changing their labelling practise. It’s awful that it takes a tragic death to spark debate and to make a huge cafe chain actually listen to public opinion and act. Pret have announced they will label all ingredients and allergens from the new year. Thank you Pret. Too little too late, but the laws need to change, because technically Pret haven’t done anything wrong. They’ve done the bare minimum required which is nothing to be proud of but they have followed current food regulations.
Please, please, please don’t take this risk people. If you are eating out, ask. Check. And if in doubt, go hungry. Missing a meal is better than the alternative.
And to the Food Standards Agency, and the EU or whoever makes these laws? Make it work. Make it something that’s actually going to help and have the desired effect. A verbal communication in this kind of establishment just doesn’t cut it.
What do you think should be done? Do you eat at places like Pret? Are they safe?