Pret death: Family ‘angry’ allergic mum died from dairy contaminationon September 26, 2022 at 9:00 pm

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Celia Marsh, who had a severe dairy allergy, died after eating a dairy-contaminated Pret a Manger wrap.

Ashleigh and Kayleigh Grice

The daughter of a woman who died after eating a Pret a Manger wrap said she was “always so careful” about her food.

Celia Marsh, who had an acute dairy allergy, had a fatal reaction to the flatbread, which was labelled as vegan despite containing traces of milk.

The coconut yoghurt dressing had been cross-contaminated with milk protein during manufacture, the coroner said.

Her daughter Ashleigh Grice, 27, said learning of the cross-contamination had left her family feeling “angry”.

On 27 December 2017 Mrs Marsh had been on a post-Christmas shopping trip in Bath with her husband and three of her daughters when she went into Pret to buy something to eat at about 14:00 GMT.

She was declared dead less than two hours later, having collapsed in the street.

Maria Voisin, senior coroner for Avon, reached a narrative conclusion following a two-week inquest into the death.

Celia and Andy Marsh

Image source, Leigh Day

Ms Grice said as a result she wanted “better testing, better labelling and better health care” for people with allergies.

“Labelling is so confusing for someone that has an allergy.

“You’re never 100% sure, it’s kind of like a gamble,” she added.

The protein was in an ingredient called COYO that contained an extra ingredient called HG1 that was cross-contaminated with dairy 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,” the coroner ruled.

The coconut yoghurt used as dressing came from Australian brand COYO, and was licensed for manufacture in the UK to British firm Planet Coconut.

Kayleigh Grice

“You’re so used to not knowing (what happened) it’s sometimes easier not to know,” Ms Grice said.

“We’re hoping that anything that definitely says ‘free from’ or ‘dairy-free’ is exactly what it says, and is vigorously tested and verified so the person purchasing that product can definitely be reassured that it is safe for them and they are getting what they think they’re getting,” she added.

“Unfortunately, with Mum that wasn’t the case.”

She and her younger sister Kayleigh Grice, 20, paid tribute to their “crazy” mum who had many hobbies.

“She had a wide variety of music she liked.

“She took us to many concerts. She liked to drift cars, she was very into fitness. Towards the end, she really became interested in ghost hunting,” Ms Grice said.

“She was very adventurous. She was fun. She was brilliant.”

Celia Marsh pictured with a man

Image source, Celia Marsh Family / SWNS

Mrs Marsh’s husband Andy said he had lost his “best friend” as he too called for more rigorous testing of food for allergy sufferers.

The inquest was told Mrs Marsh, 42, from Melksham in Wiltshire, “religiously avoided” dairy after a near-fatal experience months prior.

In her verdict, Ms Voisin said: “Celia Marsh was not aware the wrap contained milk protein.”

Celia Marsh

Image source, Leigh Day

The CEO of Pret a Manger, Pano Christou, said the company “fully supported” the coroner’s findings and expressed his deepest sympathies to the family.

“As the coroner made clear, Planet Coconut had information which should have alerted them that their COYO yoghurt may have contained milk and this information was not passed on to Pret.”

Since Mrs Marsh’s death he said Pret had taken “significant steps” involving its suppliers and labelling policies to ensure all customers were fully informed about the food they were buying.

Asked if they should have done more to inform Pret about the risk of contamination, Planet Coconut said in a statement: “The BRC (British Retail Consortium) audit stated that an allergen free production environment was available upon request.”

It added that a product information form that said the HG1 was “not suitable for a free-from claim” was first shared with them in February 2018.

Bethany Eaton, managing director of Planet Coconut, told the inquest she was unaware of the risk the starch posed.

She said she had been assured the yoghurt was made in “an allergen-free environment” and she too extended her thoughts to the family of Mrs Marsh.

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