On Saturday (6 October), Pret a Manger said that CoYo UK, the dairy-free yoghurt brand “mis-sold” it a guaranteed dairy-free yoghurt that was found to contain dairy protein.
This was believed to have resulted in the death of 42-year-old Celia Marsh from an allergic reaction in December 2017, Pret said. Marsh, from Melksham in Wiltshire, is thought to have consumed the yogurt in a vegan wrap.
Pret said it had terminated its relationship with CoYo and was in the process of taking legal action.
In a statement, Kent-based CoYo said the dairy-free product it provided to Pret in December 2017 was not linked to the product it recalled in February 2018.
‘Severely limited our ability’
“Pret’s inability to provide us with a batch code, despite several requests, has severely limited our ability to investigate this further,” it said.
“In February 2018, working closely with Bexley Local Authority and the Food Standards Agency (FSA), we issued a precautionary product recall after trace amounts of dairy ingredients were identified in materials used to make our product.
“This contamination was traced to a third-party supplier who we no longer work with.”
As a consequence of the UK withdrawal CoYo said it had tightened its controls to now test all ingredients prior to use through a third party, even where suppliers guarantee them to be free of dairy protein.
The FSA said that Bath and North East Somerset Council were notified on 19 January 2018 by the Coroner, about a fatality that occurred on 27 December 2017, with a possible link to allergy.
Notified by the local authority
The FSA said it was notified by the local authority of this fatality on 8 February 2018.
“The FSA worked with Bexley, the Local Authority where the dairy-free yoghurt manufacturer was situated, to investigate,” an FSA spokeswoman said.
“Recommendations were made, appropriate action - including the issue of an allergy alert - was taken by the business and the investigation was closed.”
The original allergy controversy arose following the case of 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who had an allergic reaction to sesame and died on a flight after eating one of Pret’s baguettes bought at Heathrow airport. The law does not require foodservice establishments such as Pret a Manger to label allergens in products prepared on site, but rather requires outlets to display general warnings urging customers to consult staff about product ingredients.
Following the coroner's verdict on Ednan-Laperouse's death last week, Pret chief executive officer Clive Schlee said he hoped the business “would learn from this tragedy and ensure meaningful changes result from it”.
“We are deeply sorry for the loss of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died after eating a Pret baguette containing sesame.”
Schlee outlined the changes Pret had made over the past two years in terms of allergen labelling, but recognised that more needed to be done.
“In the last two years, we have been improving our allergen information. We now display declarable allergens for our freshly made products on shelf tickets in front of each item. We also have signs in our fridges, on product packaging, and at till points advising customers with allergies to speak with a manager to see our Allergen Guide.
“Despite these improvements, we recognise there is much more we can do. We will start trialling new labels, which show full ingredients, including allergens, on packaging from next month. This will be rolled out to all UK shops as quickly as possible.”
Pret has already agreed to full labelling of ingredients on all its freshly made products.