The Daily Telegraph

Mother with dairy allergy died after ‘vegan’ Pret wrap

Shoppers stepped over woman in the street after she collapsed while out with family, inquest is told

- By Catherine Lough

PEOPLE stepped over a dying woman in the street as she struggled to breathe after eating a Pret a Manger wrap labelled “vegan”, an inquest heard yesterday.

Celia Marsh, 42, died in December 2017 after she suffered a severe allergic reaction to a wrap from Pret which contained traces of dairy.

She had been eating a super-veg rainbow flatbread from the chain, which contained yoghurt that was labelled as vegan but was later found to contain traces of dairy protein.

The dental nurse and mother of five from Melksham, Wiltshire, “religiousl­y avoided” all dairy products because of her severe dairy allergy, Avon Coroner’s Court heard.

Her husband, Andy Marsh, said she had begun to feel “a bit funny” after eating the wrap while on a Christmas shopping trip with him and three of her daughters.

They walked down a side street near the Gap store and Celia had her inhaler out, Mr Marsh said, adding that she said she was “struggling to breathe but it may be because of the cold air”.

He said Mrs Marsh had initially thought she was “being silly” because the sandwich had been labelled “vegan”. “She had her Epipen in her hand and I said to her that if she thought there was any chance she was having a reaction that she should just do it and use the pen as it doesn’t matter,” he said.

“She then said to me ‘You need to phone an ambulance’,” he added.

Mr Marsh said he phoned 999 by which time his wife had collapsed and was being tended to by an off-duty GP who had offered to help.

“They took Celia away in an ambulance but I had my children with me so could not go in the ambulance with her to the hospital,” Mr Marsh said. “I was really in shock so it took a short time before I was able to drive up to the hospital in my car.

“When we arrived at the hospital we were taken into a side room and we were told that Celia had been pronounced dead at 4pm.”

A civil servant who came to Mrs Marsh’s aid said a crowd had formed in the busy street around her as she lay on the ground and described the scene as “disturbing”.

He said he saw Mr Marsh attempting to comfort his young daughter. A number of people were said to have taken off their coats to place over Mrs Marsh to keep her warm but one of the paramedics who attended said in his statement that some shoppers continued to step over Mrs Marsh as she was being treated.

Mr Marsh and his daughters could be seen weeping during the hearing as the statements were read out.

The inquest into Mrs Marsh’s death is taking place at Ashton Court Mansion House in Bristol and is expected to last between two and three weeks.

Mrs Marsh’s family are being represente­d at the hearing by Jeremy Hyam QC, while interested parties include Bath and North East Somerset Council, Australian-based coconut yogurt company Coyo, and its UK distributo­r, Planet Coconut.

Both firms were involved in the supply of the yoghurt ingredient in the sandwich to Pret. Pret was charged with food safety failures in the wake of Mrs Marsh’s death, but the prosecutio­n was later dropped due to lack of evidence.

The company said it would fully cooperate with the inquest and Pano Christou, chief executive of Pret, was present at the first day of the hearing.

Mrs Marsh’s death came in the wake of that of 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-laperouse, who died in 2016 after eating a Pret baguette containing sesame seeds, bought at Heathrow Airport.

The incident led to an overhaul of food labelling laws.

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