A Teesside food safety chief has issued a rallying cry for more resources in the wake of a tragic allergy death.
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, went into cardiac arrest on a flight to Nice after buying a baguette at Pret A Manger in Heathrow Airport in 2016 which contained sesame seeds.
She died as a result and a coroner’s court heard Pret did not label “artisan” baguettes as containing sesame seeds before Natasha died.
Steve Donaghy, environmental health manager at Stockton Council, told councillors how allergen labelling “had never been more prominent” at a meeting on Tuesday (October 2).
But he also warned the legal requirement to label allergens “was not being done well enough” at a national level.
His answers came after Cllr Sylvia Walmsley asked for reassurance about what was being done with food labelling in the borough.
She added: “I know it’s down to government policy and there is not really a lot we can do, but I would like a little bit of reassurance about the unfortunate death of the young girl about voluntary food labelling.
“We have got places like sandwich bars where sandwiches are made on the premises and I am just wondering if any work is being done around that to make sure the same thing cannot happen within Stockton.”
Mr Donaghy said there was a legal requirement for businesses to label 14 different defined allergens on foodstuffs – an edict which has been in place for a number of years.
The environmental health chief added: “You have to offer a place where it can be seen but even in my opinion, nationally it’s not being done well enough.
“You go into restaurants and you have some tiny little cards somewhere that says “this may contain this”.
“We’ve also had tragic instances where food business operators have cut corners where instead of cashew powder they’ve used peanut powder.”
Mr Donaghy hoped the tragic death would “cause a spark in the FSA (Food Standards Agency) and central government” to “increase resources” so people “thoroughly know exactly what is going into the food they are consuming”.
THE 14 ALLERGENS WHICH MUST BE DECLARED (source: FSA)
Cereals that contain gluten – including wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan), rye, barley and oats
Crustaceans – such as prawns, crabs and lobsters
Molluscs – such as mussels and oysters
Tree nuts – including almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts
Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (if they are at a concentration of more than ten parts per million)
Mr Donaghy’s passionate report came at the council’s adult social care and health select committee amid a report on his team’s performance.
Earlier in the meeting, Mr Donaghy explained the FSA had changed the way allergens had to be noted in the past couple of years at both food premises and on food packaging.
Mr Donaghy added the authority was responding to the changes to ensure “tragedies like this do not have an opportunity to occur again”.
He said: “It’s something that’s being looked at intimately at the moment so we can take that on further.
“It’s something being done pretty heavily in conjunction with the FSA.”
At the moment, the 2014 UK Food Regulations allow freshly made, non pre-packaged food to not be individually labelled.