A teenage girl who died after suffering a severe allergic reaction to a Pret a Manger baguette said “Daddy, help me, I can’t breathe” as she collapsed, an inquest has heard.
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse fell ill on a British Airways flight from London to Nice on 17 July 2016 after eating an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette bought at a Pret a Manger at Heathrow Airport’s terminal five.
The 15-year-old was allergic to sesame and did not know that the ingredient was baked into the bread of the baguette.
Sesame was not listed on the packging of the sandwich, according to a statement from Natasha’s father Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, which was read aloud by the family’s lawyer on the first day of the inquest into her death.
Natasha began feeling itchy while on the British Airways flight to Nice and then developed vicious red hives across her body, her father said.
He rushed her to the cabin’s toilets where he administered an epipen to his daughter’s upper thigh.
“We waited a couple of minutes to see how she reacted,” he said in the statement.
“She said she couldn’t breathe properly and it was getting worse and urged me to get the second epipen right away.”
“Natasha said that she still couldn’t breathe and desperately looked at me, she said ‘Daddy, help me, I can’t breathe’”.
The 15-year-old lost consciousness and suffered a cardiac arrest.
Crew members and a junior doctor who was on board performed CPR until the plane landed in France.
Natasha was taken to hospital, where doctors told Mr Ednan-Laperouse that it was unlikely his daughter would survive and he then put a phone to his daughter’s ear so that her mother and brother could say goodbye.
“The pain and agony of the call was beyond anything I have known,” the statement said of the moment he had to tell Natasha’s mother that their child was dying.
”How could it be that such a terrible thing could have happened when we were so careful with food?”
Natasha was declared dead the same day.
The businessman then called his own mother and asked her to visit a branch of Pret a Manger in London to examine the same sandwich that Natasha had eaten.
His mother found no information on the shelf. She enquired at the till and was handed a folder of allergen information.
“My mother looked down the list and found that the baguette dough had sesame seed inside it,” the statement said.
“I was stunned that a big food company like Pret could mislabel a sandwich and this could cause my daughter to die.”
Oliver Campbell QC, representing Pret a Manger, suggested that Natasha‘s father “must unfortunately be mistaken” about his recollections of the food’s packaging, saying they do not typically display ingredients.
However, Mr Ednan-Laperouse responded that, while he never bought food from Pret, he would regularly go inside branches to inspect the food and found some did have such labels, while others did not.
He added: “There was no label on the fridge, I have got an eagle eye for such things.
“The vigilance levels that me and my wife have are like that of a hawk – if there is some there to be seen, we are going to be seeing it.”
The inquest also heard that Natasha was very careful about what she ate and often checked food labelling due to the nature of her allergies.
Sesame is one of 14 allergens that have to be listed on pre-packaged products made off shop premises, according to EU regulations.
Pret a Manger products are made each day on site and so ingredients do not have to be listed on individual products. Brands such as EAT and Itsu follow similar procedures.
“We were deeply saddened to hear about Natasha’s tragic death, and our heartfelt thoughts are with her family and friends,” a spokesperson for Pret a Manger said in an earlier statement.
Representatives from the company and from British Airways are expected to speak at the inquest, which is to continue at the West London Coroner’s Court.
Press Association contributed to this report