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Pret a Manger changes labeling following fatality, IFST calls for UK legislation review

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2018-10-08  Views: 14
Core Tip: The UK's Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) is calling for a review of allergen labeling legislation in the wake of the tragic death of a teenage girl onboard a flight after eating a Pret a Manger baguette containing sesame.
The UK's Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) is calling for a review of allergen labeling legislation in the wake of the tragic death of a teenage girl onboard a flight after eating a Pret a Manger baguette containing sesame. The recently completed inquest heard that 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, from London, died in July 2016 from anaphylaxis caused by sesame after eating an artichoke and olive tapenade baguette, bought at Pret a Manger at Heathrow Airport.
Pret a Manger relied on UK law that permits no allergen labeling on products that are not pre-packed, or which are pre-packed on the premises where they are sold. Instead of labeling on the packaging itself, it is permitted to prompt consumers to ask about allergens. 
This is done by “signposting” with a label attached to the food, or on an easily seen notice where the intending purchaser chooses their food. The business must indicate that the details can be obtained by asking a member of staff and ensuring that allergen information is available and easily accessible to the consumer. 
A “prepacked food,” legally refers to a food item which cannot be altered without opening or changing its packaging, as opposed to foods packed on the sales premises at the customer’s request or prepacked for direct sale. 
But now the sandwich shop chain has announced that full ingredient labeling will be introduced to all products that are freshly made in its shop kitchens. The labels will list all ingredients, including allergens.

Clive Schlee, Pret Chief Executive, says: “I want to say again how deeply sorry we are for the loss of Natasha. I said we would learn from this tragedy and ensure meaningful changes happen. I hope these measures set us on course to drive change in the industry, so people with allergies are as protected and informed as possible. Nothing is more important to Pret right now.”

IFST says it welcomes Pret’s commitment to changes in allergen labeling and supports UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove. It also intends to urgently consider the situation after the coroner called on the UK government to examine labeling rules, specifically on whether large businesses should be able to benefit from regulations, allowing reduced food labeling on products made in shops.

IFST is calling for a change of culture in businesses, regulation and enforcement so that people with allergies can readily find the information they need to keep safe.

“I believe when businesses are fully complying with the regulations, and such tragic cases still occur, the law needs to be reviewed,” says Sterling Crew, Chair of IFST’s Food Safety Group.

Changes at Pret a Manger
In the last two years, Pret A Manger says it has improved its allergen information. It now displays declarable allergens for its freshly made products on shelf tickets in front of each product. It also has signs in its fridges, on product packaging, and at till points advising customers with allergies to speak to a manager to see the company Allergen Guide.

However, the company does say there is much more it can do and will start trialing full ingredient labeling on product packaging from next month. This will be rolled out to all UK shops as quickly as possible.

The company is also committing to working with others, including the government, regulatory authorities, charity groups and industry peers, to secure the legislative changes necessary to protect people with allergies better.

In the meantime, Pret says it will ensure that within the coming weeks:
- Prominent allergen warning stickers are placed on all individual freshly made products,
- Additional allergen warning signs are displayed in shops; and
- Full ingredient information, including allergens, for all products, is available online and in shops.

The company will also improve its complaints handling procedures to ensure allergy-related incidents are immediately escalated and reported on within 24 hours.

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