Pret a Manger customer died after allergic reaction to ‘vegan’ wrap, concludes coroner

Author: Maria Chiorando

Read Time:   |  23rd September 2022

Celia Marsh, who 'religiously' avoided dairy products after an earlier near-fatal allergic reaction, died in 2017 after eating a Pret a Manger Super Veg Rainbow Flatbread

A Pret a Manger customer died after suffering a fatal reaction to a wrap marked as vegan that contained traces of milk, a coroner has ruled.

Celia March, from Wiltshire, died in Bath in 2017 after eating a Super Veg Rainbow Flatbread from Pret a Manger.

According to her husband Andy, Celia ‘religiously’ avoided consuming dairy products, as the mother-of-five had suffered a near-fatal reaction just months earlier, requiring 15 shots of adrenaline.

But despite being marked as vegan, the wrap she bought contained a coconut yoghurt dressing, containing coconut yoghurt which the coroner said had been cross-contaminated with milk protein during manufacture.

Speaking outside court, Celia’s tearful daughter Ashleigh Grice called for ‘better testing, better labelling and better health care’ for those with allergies.

The family, who described Celia’s death as avoidable, also welcomed recommendations made by the coroner, including introducing compulsory testing for products which claim to be free from allergens, including dairy.

Pret a Manger wrap

The dressing contained coconut yoghurt from Australia-based company CoYo, which contained an ingredient called HG1.

Senior coroner Maria Voisin said: “The contamination arose because the ingredient HG1 was cross-contaminated during manufacture.

“The manufacturer of the dairy-free yoghurt had in its possession documents which flagged this risk, but this risk was not passed on to its customers.”

She reached her narrative conclusion following a two-week inquest into Celia’s death, concluding that the mother-of-five had suffered an anaphylactic shock as a result of eating the wrap which contained traces of milk.

“A product which is marked dairy-free should be, free from dairy,” said the coroner.

She also noted in her verdict that ‘Celia Marsh was not aware the wrap contained milk protein’.

‘Steps have been taken’

In a statement, Pret a Manger CEO Pano Christou, said: “As a father and husband, I can only imagine how distressing this has been for Celia’s children and family.

“Our deepest sympathies remain with everyone who knew and loved Celia.”

He continued: “It goes without saying that if Pret had ever known that the CoYo yoghurt may have contained milk, we would have never used the ingredient.”

Pret a Manger no longer marks freshly made food items as ‘dairy free’ or free from any allergens.

Meanwhile, Bethany Eaton, managing director of Planet Coconut, which supplied the yoghurt to Pret a Manger, said she had been told by CoYo founder Henry Gosling that it was safe for people with allergies.

If you are transitioning to a plant-based diet but have concerns around allergies, you can read our guide to vegan diets and food allergies to find out more

 

Written by

Maria Chiorando

Maria is an editor and journalist. Her work has been published by the Huffington Post, the Guardian, TechnoBuffalo, Plant Based News, and Kent on Sunday among other national and regional titles.

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