This week, I’ve found myself actually shocked by the news stories about Pret a Manger and their labelling – and more relevantly, the whole story about the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who suffered an allergic reaction to unlabelled sesame in a Pret sandwich.
The inquest into Natasha’s death was this week – she died two years ago – which is why it’s been in the news this week.
It turns out that the UK’s Food Regulations 2014 have an exception that allows freshly handmade, non pre-packaged food to not be individually labelled – which is the loophole that allowed Pret to get away with not labelling each sandwich individually. To me, that’s disgraceful. The loophole was (understandably) intended for small sandwich bars etc. to not be constrained by huge amounts of red tape. It’s not intended for large commercial efforts. (Although of course they’ve taken advantage of it)
Even worse, Natasha isn’t even the first person to have died as a result of this mis-labelling or lack of information.
All told though, two things in the whole sorry story left me utterly gobsmacked and despairing of people and corporations.
The first was how badly the staff on the flight handled Natasha’s allergic reaction. The doctor who attended to her wasn’t made aware of all the equipment on the plane, and also that “because Natasha went into cardiac arrest as the plane was landing, it would have been unsafe to retrieve the defibrillator from the back of the plane, where it was stored, while Natasha was being tended to at the front” (that quote is from the Guardian story) I mean really, for fuck’s sake, how robotic and uncaring do you have to be, to go “Nope, I’m not going to get that, we’ve got to be prepared for landing the plane”?
The second thing – and to me, the worst – is the timescales involved. Pret a Manger knew about this issue when Natasha died. Two years ago. Yet it’s only now, once the coroner has finished the inquest, that they say “We’ll look at changing our labels“. That’s two years where they’ve known about the problem, and have done nothing. I wonder what the reaction would/will be if someone else turns out to have died for the same reason within that time.
I assume there’s been some corporate legal bullshit going on that says that if they changed the labels before the inquest, they’d be acknowledging they were liable, or some such. Thing is, they were – and are – liable. If the labels had been in place, she wouldn’t have taken that sandwich, and wouldn’t have died. How on earth can that be anything other than being responsible for her death?