Pret A Manger claims over second suspected allergy death 'unfounded'

6 October 2018, 23:44 | Updated: 7 October 2018, 14:16

The company that Pret A Manger has accused of supplying a contaminated yoghurt suspected to have caused a second allergy death has refuted the claims as "unfounded".

Pret said the customer with a dairy allergy - who has not been named - died after having an allergic reaction to a sandwich bought from a branch in Bath in December 2017.

An investigation is under way after she collapsed after eating a vegan wrap which had been contaminated with dairy protein.

Her sandwich choice was a super veg rainbow wrap, made with CoYo yoghurt, a coconut milk brand, and the death reportedly triggered a national recall of the product.

However, CoYo claimed the dairy-free product supplied to Pret in December 2017 was not linked to the product it recalled in February 2018 as "that was made with a contaminated raw material that was only supplied to us in January 2018".

In a statement, Pret A Manger said: "CoYo, the dairy-free yoghurt brand which supplies supermarkets and shops across the UK, mis-sold to Pret a guaranteed dairy-free yoghurt that was found to contain dairy protein.

"This is believed to have resulted in the tragic death of a customer from an allergic reaction in December 2017.

"As soon as Pret was made aware of this incident by Bath Council, it withdrew all affected products.

"Subsequent testing by Pret and two independent authorities found that the CoYo dairy-free yoghurt contained traces of dairy protein.

"Pret informed the FSA which led to a national product recall from all supermarkets and businesses supplied by CoYo.

"Pret terminated its relationship with CoYo UK and is in the process of taking legal action.

"Our deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of our customer in this terrible case and we will seek to assist them in any way we can."

CoYo said in a statement: "The claims made by Pret are unfounded.

"Pret's inability to provide us with a batch code, despite several requests, has severely limited our ability to investigate this further.

"In February 2018, working closely with Bexley local authority and the 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.

"This product withdrawal only affected product produced in the UK as CoYo Australia and CoYo US sources from a different supply base not affected by the cross contamination."

CoYo said it has "always taken food safety and allergen control extremely seriously".

"As a consequence of the UK withdrawal CoYo has 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," it said.

"All CoYo manufacturing facilities are solely dairy-free and do not produce any dairy products, which makes our allergen control even more robust.

"CoYo will continue to cooperate with all authorities and assist the inquest in finding the true cause.

"We urge all parties to work together, and not to speculate on the cause of this tragic death which is unknown as far as we are aware and is still being investigated by the Coroners court."

The incident comes after the inquest into the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, who collapsed on board a flight after consuming a baguette that contained sesame seeds which she had bought at a Pret outlet at Heathrow airport in 2016.

The sandwich had not been marked as containing the seeds, which she was severely allergic to.

A coroner said the chain had failed to address the seriousness of food allergies, with the teenager's father Nadim Ednan-Laperouse accusing the company of a "complete dereliction of duty".

He and Natasha's mother, Tanya, who have been campaigning for allergy awareness and a change in food labelling laws, said they were "incredibly saddened to learn of someone else losing their life from allergens in their food".

"Our hearts go out to the bereaved family," they added in a statement.

Pret has announced full ingredient labelling will be introduced to all products that are freshly made in its shop kitchens.

The firm said it will begin trialling the move from next month and plans to roll this out to all UK shops as quickly as possible.

Pret said it was "deeply sorry" over the death of Natasha.