Will the government tighten up food labelling laws after the recent death of 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse?
The tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, had a resounding effect on people across the country, sparking a fierce debate about food labelling laws.
Natasha collapsed on 17 July 2016 after eating an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette she bought from Pret a Manger in Heathrow airport. She suffered from numerous allergies and reacted badly to sesame seeds in the bread.
The baguette in question did not have any allergen advice on it. This was because, under UK regulation, food that is produced on site can abide by reduced labelling requirements, meaning that only general allergen warnings needs to be stipulated. Indeed, companies are required to warn customers about risks either on packaging, signs or orally. This means that customers are required to take the initiative and inquire themselves.
Coroner Dr Sean Cummings today expressed concern that having reduced labelling requirements for certain foods may be being used by bigger businesses to get around regulations. Dr Cummings said: “I was left with the impression that Pret had not addressed the fact that monitoring food allergy in a business selling more than 200 million items year was something to be taken very seriously indeed.”
Ralli Director James Reilly sheds some much needed light on the legal perspective of this issue: “Whilst the Coroners Court does not impose liability that would follow from a civil trial, the narrative decision given by the Coroner in this case and the subsequent request made by the lawyers to Michael Gove personally for the British Government to look into this means that action will inevitably follow. The negative PR for Pret means that larger companies are all likely to be voluntarily reviewing their own practices to avoid the same thing happening. The Government if not entirely distracted by Brexit will also want to be seen to do something, especially as it is the Conservative Party Conference next week.”
“The reduced labelling requirements were brought in to assist small takeaway / deli type establishments not to aid multi national corporations in increasing profits at the expense of consumer safety. The public quite reasonably expect higher standards from larger businesses and this case will have ramifications for everyone and particularly companies given the increasing reliance by consumers for ready made and fast food,” Mr Reilly added.