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Inquest opens for schoolgirl who died after eating Pret a Manger sandwich

A coroner's inquest into the death of a 15-year-old with severe food allergies who died shortly after consum...

Posted: Sep 24, 2018 12:17 PM
Updated: Sep 24, 2018 12:17 PM

A coroner's inquest into the death of a 15-year-old with severe food allergies who died shortly after consuming a baguette from popular British sandwich chain Pret a Manger will get underway in London on Monday.

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse is believed to have suffered a fatal allergic reaction to sesame seeds baked into the sandwich while she was traveling with her father Nadim to France on a British Airways flight in July 2016.

Allergies

Diseases and disorders

Food allergies

Health and medical

The inquest will seek to establish the circumstances surrounding the death and whether any lessons can be drawn from it.

Before the inquest began, the family released a statement describing the struggle with adjusting to life since Natasha's death, which they called "a daily battle."

"As a family now of three, my wife, son and I are still trying to adjust to life without our beloved girl," said the statement by Nadim and Tanya Laperouse. "It's a daily battle and the pain is indescribable."

They continued: "Everything we say and do is a reminder that she isn't with us -- her empty bedroom, school uniform hanging in her wardrobe, her holiday bag packed for her holiday in Nice has never been unpacked. We can't bear to."

They described her as a popular girl and an animal lover who also had a passion for figure skating.

"She had a great sense of humor and was known for her contagious laughter -- she could reduce a whole room to tears of laughter in minutes! She was also gentle, brave and loyal and showed great kindness and courage on many occasions. You could not ask for a more wonderful daughter," they said.

According to the family, Natasha collapsed after eating an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette purchased from a Pret a Manger store at London's Heathrow Airport, Britain's Press Association (PA) reported.

Her father dispensed two EpiPens -- auto-injectors that deliver epinephrine to help treat life-threatening allergic reactions -- before she was taken to University Hospital of Nice, where she was declared dead.

The inquest into Natasha's death opened Monday morning at West London Coroner's Court and will probe the labeling of food products.

Food at Pret a Manger is prepared fresh each day on-site in store kitchens and while products do not feature individual allergen or ingredient information labels, an "allergen guide" is available for consultation in all stores and online. In line with UK regulatory requirements for food labeling, there is allergen signage on refrigerators and at checkouts that direct patrons to inquire with store managers.

In a statement to CNN, Pret a Manger said it was "saddened" to learn of Natasha's death.

"We were deeply saddened to hear about Natasha's tragic death, and our heartfelt thoughts are with her family and friends," the statement read.

"We take food allergies and how allergen information is provided to our customers extremely seriously. We will continue to do all that we can to assist the Coroner's inquest."

According to PA, citing the family's lawyer, Pret a Manger and British Airways representatives are expected to provide evidence at the inquest.

At the time of her death, Natasha's family said she was looking forward to the summer months after working hard at school and wanted to study law in the future.

"We were traveling to Nice for a four-day break with her best friend as a special treat. After this, she had a week planned at a youth Christian Festival in Norfolk and then we had a two-week family holiday planned in Greece. It was going to be her best summer ever," her parents' statement said.

They added that over 300 people attended a memorial service for her in December 2016 on what would have been her 16th birthday.

"There were heartbreaking stories from her friends, all of them recognizing what a great friend she had been to them," the statement added. "Other friends sang songs of love and friendship and there were many tears. Her closest friends still miss her every day and have found life very difficult to adjust to without her."

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