Pret A Manger has started a national roll-out of full ingredient labels on freshly made products as part of its response to the deaths of two customers from allergic reactions.
The move is part of a five-point allergy plan launched by the chain that includes installing tablets in every shop to allow customers to search for products by filtering out ingredients, the removal of allergens from more than 70 Pret products, and a commitment to produce quarterly food safety reports.
The new labels will be in 20 London shops this week, with further roll-outs planned later this month and over the summer. Tablets will be introduced throughout this year.
It follows a successful pilot in two shops in London Victoria, which has seen staff label more than half a million Pret sandwiches, baguettes and wraps since November.
The chain is also investing £1 million in pay rises for staff who complete additional allergy training.
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, from Fulham, south-west London, collapsed on board a flight in July 2016 after eating an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette she had bought at a Pret outlet in Heathrow Airport.
The coroner at her inquest said she died of anaphylaxis after eating the sandwich containing sesame, to which she was allergic.
Dental nurse Celia Marsh died in December 2017 after apparently suffering an allergic reaction to a Pret A Manger sandwich.
Pret chief executive Clive Schlee said: “The issue of allergies has struck a deep chord within Pret A Manger following the tragic deaths of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse and Celia Marsh.
“We said we would learn from the past and make meaningful changes. This plan brings together some of the most important changes we have been making to help customers with allergies.
“At the heart of the plan is the roll-out of full ingredient labels on Pret’s freshly made products. Thanks to the dedication of many Pret team members, we have been able to show that full ingredient labelling is operationally possible in small kitchens when proper care is taken.
“But labelling is only part of the challenge. We have listened to Pret customers with allergies and they have told us they face a range of issues when deciding to eat out – from limited menu choices to a lack of awareness and understanding from food businesses.
“Pret’s allergy plan will tackle many of these issues – and help to ensure that every customer has the information they need to make the right choice for them.”
Pret has offered to share the details of the labelling roll-out with the Government and wider industry to help other food businesses adopt a similar approach.
Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse said: “We believe the time has come for full information and transparency about what is in our food as proposed by the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, during the current consultation on Natasha’s Law.
“We hope the entire industry steps up to the mark and supports our call for full ingredient and allergen labelling in pre-packaged food because no family should ever have to suffer the pain, anguish and dreadful death of a child as we did.”
Michelle Victor from law firm Leigh Day, who represents Mr and Mrs Ednan-Laperouse, said: “We are really pleased with how quickly the Government, and the public, have grasped the need for these vital reforms. Our clients, Nadim and Tanya, have done an amazing job in raising awareness through the most tragic of circumstances.”
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “Businesses do not need to wait for the law to change to do the right thing, and we welcome Pret’s work to give consumers clearer information on the food they buy.
“We are continuing to work at pace to bring forward legislation that gives food allergy sufferers confidence in the safety of their food.”