The brother of a 15-year-old girl who died from an allergic reaction to a baguette from Pret a Manger has said he only had ten seconds to talk to his sister before she passed away.
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, from Fulham, west London, died from anaphylaxis after she ate an artichoke, olive, and tapenade baguette from a Pret a Manger store at Heathrow in July 2016.
Unaware that the baguette contained sesame seeds, Natasha suffered a severe allergic reaction within minutes of her flight taking off for Nice.
Despite her father administering two Epi-pens on her, Natasha had several cardiac arrests during the flight and died later that day at a French hospital.
Natasha’s brother, Alex, who was 13-years-old at the time of the incident, said his mum received a phone call within hours of dropping them off at Heathrow airport saying Natasha had become “really unwell” on the plane and had fallen unconscious.
Writing in The Times, he said: “Later that day I got a phone call from my dad saying that Tash was going to die in a few minutes and I had to say goodbye.”
He continued: ”Tash was unconscious but I thanked her for being such a great sister to me and told her I loved her very much. I only spoke to her for 10 to 15 seconds and then the phone call ended.
“Everything changed from there. I remember this feeling of deep shock, and my lungs felt like they had collapsed. I started crying uncontrollably.”
Natasha and Alex’s mother was also forced to say goodbye to her on the phone, as the flight she had bought in a panic to France had been delayed.
Natasha Allergy Research Foundat SWNS)
Paying tribute to his sister, Alex described her as “feisty” with “a lot of character” and a “real sense of justice” who wanted to be a human rights lawyer.
He said Natasha had a “funny, contagious laugh” and the siblings had a “very, very strong bond” that he missed to this day.
His comments come as new food safety rules – known as “Natasha’s Law” – were introduced after campaigning by the Ednan-Laperouse family following their daughter’s death.
All food retailers will be required to display the full ingredients and allergens on every food item made on the premises and pre-packed for direct sale, including sandwiches, cakes, and salads.
Previously, non pre-packaged fresh food made on the premises did not need to be individually labelled with allergen or ingredient information.
Tom Wren / SWNS.com)
A 2018 inquest heard the baguette that Natasha ate contained sesame baked into the dough but the ingredient was not listed on the packaging.
The inquest concluded she would not have eaten the sandwich if she had known the ingredients and allergen.
Mr and Mrs Ednan-Laperouse, who set up the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, have welcomed the change of law, as they said their daughter “would be very proud”.
Mr Ednan-Laperouse said: “Natasha’s Law is vital to protect the two to three million people in the UK living with food allergies from life-threatening allergic reactions. It is about saving lives and marks a major milestone in our campaign to support people in this country with food allergies.
“This change in the law brings greater transparency about the foods people are buying and eating; it will give people with food allergies confidence when they are buying pre-packaged food for direct sale, such as sandwiches and salads. Everyone should be able to consume food safely.”
Food Standards Agency chief executive Emily Miles said: “If these changes drive down the number of hospital admissions caused by food allergies, which have seen a threefold increase over the last 20 years, and prevent further tragic deaths such as Natasha’s, that can only be a positive thing.
“I understand how difficult the past 18 months have been for food businesses, and I am grateful for the effort that so many have made to prepare for the changes and enable people to make safe decisions about the food they eat.”
Mrs Ednan-Laperouse said there was still “so much more to do” to ensure similar tragedies do not occur again.
She said: “Natasha was always extremely careful to check the food labels and until that terrible day in 2016 hadn’t had a severe allergic reaction for over nine years.
“Nothing can bring Natasha back, and we have to live with that reality every day, but we know in our hearts that Natasha would be very proud that a new law in her name will help to protect others. Natasha was a very public-spirited young woman – she wanted to make a difference – so this feels like a fitting tribute to her.
“However, there is still so much more to do to support people with food allergies including the appointment of an Allergy Tsar, to act as a champion for people with allergies to ensure they receive correct and appropriate support including joined up health care to prevent avoidable deaths and ill health.”