The death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse’s sparked question about how companies alert consumers to ingredients in their food. Now new life-saving regulations are being introduced.
For two million people in the UK, being told what is in their food is more than just a nice to know – it’s a matter of life and death.
That was the horrific truth for Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who suffered a fatal allergic reaction after eating sesame in an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette bought in Heathrow Airport. She died of anaphylaxis after collapsing on board a flight to Nice on 17 July 2016.
According to the coroner looking into the 15-year-old’s death, Natasha had been “reassured” by the lack of specific allergen information on the packaging.
While supermarkets already have to follow these rules, food businesses where meals are made on the premises do not currently have an obligation to disclose the full ingredient list.
Pret was one of those outlets, which is why the sesame seeds in the bread that Natasha ate went unflagged. It said that it was “deeply sorry for Natasha’s death” and have already begun rolling out full ingredient lists in their restaurants and cafes.
Now, all other businesses will have to follow suit. They’ve been given two years to comply with the new regulations, meaning that the law will come into force in summer 2021 in England and Northern Ireland.
The Ednan-Laperouses have said they are “delighted” by the announcement, and the Food Standards Agency believe that it will mean “better protection” for allergic consumers.
What is an allergy?
People can be allergic to anything – from nuts to pollen (hello, hay fever). Food allergies specifically have hit the spot light recently, with free-from aisles growing in size and more people avoiding certain foods, like gluten, wheat and dairy.
But there’s a difference between an allergy and an intolerance. The NHS describes an intolerance as a difficulty digesting certain foods, whereas an allergy is when the body’s immune system reacts unusually to specific foods. The most serious case of allergy is anaphylaxis, as suffered by Natasha, with symptoms including difficulty breathing and a fast heart.