Parents of Pret allergy victim say supermarket labelling ‘not good enough’

The parents of a girl killed by an allergic reaction to a shop-bought sandwich have expressed their anger after an investigation found some supermarket bakeries failed to adequately warn customers of allergen risks.

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died in 2016 following an allergic reaction to sesame in a baguette from Pret a Manger. The ingredient was not listed on the label.

Her parents, Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, told BBC Watchdog that its investigation into in-store bakeries at supermarkets had revealed a “shambles” and made them “really angry”.

Mr Ednan-Laperouse said: “If that’s the experience people have to go through when shopping, it makes you feel like a second-class citizen.

“It’s just not safe. It’s not good enough.”

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, from Fulham, died after eating a sandwich containing sesame (Family handout/PA)

The BBC Watchdog Live investigation found that in shops run by three of the UK’s major supermarket chains, staff gave unclear allergen information on in-store bakery products.

The programme found Sainsbury’s did not list any of the 14 major allergens on any of its in-store bakery goods, but had advice printed on packaging to “ask a bakery colleague”.

In one store, a Watchdog undercover journalist asked if its raisin whirls were free of nuts. The member of staff advised they were nut-free, but later found product information which listed almonds in the ingredients.

At Asda, in-store bakery packaging and shelf labels did not list specific allergen ingredients, but carried general advice that products sold ‘may contain nuts, seeds and other allergens’.

But in one Asda store, staff said selected bakery products did not contain sesame as an ingredient, but sesame was listed as a product ingredient on the chain’s website.

Tesco listed major allergens on most in-store bakery products, except for unwrapped loose bread rolls, paninis and pastries in some stores, and at one branch, a senior staff member was unable to locate any ingredients information for an un-packaged panini

Following the investigation, Sainsbury’s said in a statement: “Customer safety is our priority and we are updating our labels to include more specific allergen information.”

Tesco said it will make changes to their allergen rules.

In a statement to the BBC, Tesco said: “In light of the Watchdog investigation we have reminded all staff about the importance of allergens and how to ensure customers are given the correct information. Additional and more prominent signage has also been provided to our stores to encourage customers to speak to staff.

“We are currently reviewing how allergy information is displayed moving forward and we would be keen to input into any proposed reforms to labelling laws.”

Asda said they will also be reviewing allergen information in their in-store bakeries, adding: “We take our responsibilities as a retailer incredibly seriously and are committed to doing the right thing for our customers.

“Our in-store bakeries feature clear signage on the potential for allergens in our products and our bakery products themselves are labelled to warn of the potential presence of nuts, seeds and other allergens.

“In addition, our bakery colleagues are trained to provide allergen information to customers and, like Watchdog, we carry out our own in-store checks on allergen information to ensure we’re doing the right thing.

“We have been working on improvements to the clarity of allergen information on our website and are also working to implement detailed allergen labels on our in-store bakery products.”

The full report will be shown on BBC Watchdog Live at 8pm on Wednesday.