This Sandwich Shop Has Caused Quite the Allergic Reaction

Family Health

food allergies

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder


When Celia Marsh, 42 of Wiltshire, England, went to Pret a Manger for a quick bite to eat, she didn’t know that she’d be paying for it with her life.

This is the second fatality now linked to international sandwich shop Pret a Manger, after two customers consumed allergens that were not clearly labeled on the food they purchased.

Ceila’s unfortunate death, which happened in December of 2017, is only now being investigated. Celia died from anaphylaxis, which was triggered by an allergic reaction to dairy products. Anaphylaxis is a potentially fatal allergic reaction. It is most commonly caused by an individual having a severe food allergy.

In extreme cases of anaphylaxis, your body can go into anaphylactic shock. This is where your blood pressure suddenly drops and your airways narrow, ultimately discouraging the ability to breathe. Symptoms for anaphylaxis include coughing, wheezing, tightness in your chest, rash, hives, weak pulse and in rare cases can result in loss of life.

BBC News reports that Celia Marsh died after eating a "super-veg rainbow flatbread” that contained a “yogurt that was supposed to be dairy-free.” Clearly Ceila’s flatbread had to have contained dairy products to result in such a tragic outcome.

The disastrous mix-up has been attributed to Pret a Manger’s yogurt distributor COYO having incorrect labeling. Apparently the product was sold to Pret a Manger with the promise that it would be ‘dairy-free.’ During the investigation it was found that the COYO ‘dairy-free’ products did indeed contain dairy protein. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) was informed and all COYO products were recalled nationwide.

Pret said in a statement that "...their deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of our customer in this terrible case and we will look to help them in any way we can." The company said it was taking legal action against COYO.

This isn’t the First Scandal to Rock Pret a Manger

The franchise vowed to address labeling issues, or lack thereof, following another tragic incident dating back to the 2016 death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse. The 15-year-old died after eating a Pret a Manger baguette that contained traces of sesame seeds. Natasha was deathly allergic to sesame seeds.

The parents of young Natasha have been busy advocating for stronger allergen warnings. In a statement they said they were "incredibly saddened to learn of someone else losing their life from allergens in their food."

In the United States, sesame isn’t one of the top eight allergens included in the 2004 Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act. There has been a push in recent years to have the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revisit the issue and elevate sesame’s profile. This could increase product labeling of sesame and help educate others about the risks of sesame allergies.

The Rise of Food Allergy  

For those without a food allergy, it may be difficult to fathom just how important visible and accurate food labeling can be. The numbers are somewhat staggering. An estimated 15 million people have some form of food allergy and that number is rising. We all should become better educated of this growing problem.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that “Food allergies are a growing food safety and public health concern that affect an estimated 4%–6% of children in the United States. There is no cure for food allergies. (But it is possible to outgrow them or develop a tolerance.) Reactions can be life threatening. Strict avoidance of the food allergen is the only way to prevent a reaction. Early and quick recognition and treatment can prevent serious health problems or death.”

Here are some food allergy facts compliments of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).

  • Among children aged 0–17 years, the prevalence of food allergies increased from 3.4% in 1997–1999 to 5.1% in 2009–2011.
  • Eight foods account for 90 percent of allergies: peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.
  • Boys are more likely to develop allergies than girls.
  • Allergies children are likely to outgrow include: milk, eggs, wheat and soy.
  • Lifelong food allergies include: peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish and fish.
  • There are no known cures for food allergies. But, again, you may be able to outgrow some of them or develop a tolerance.


If you are middle-aged or older, you can remember a time when food allergies were almost non-existent. So why are they suddenly so common?

Though further research is needed, there are many that believe that the introduction of agrochemicals, herbicides and pesticides into our food supply is to blame.

Pret a Manger also has an open class action lawsuit against them for deceptively marketing their sandwiches and cookies as ‘all natural’ when they actually have been found to contain the toxic weed killer glyphosate. Glyphosate is sold throughout the world by agrochemical giant Monsanto in products like Roundup.

Mere months ago Monsanto had to shell out a record-breaking $289 million in punitive damages to a groundskeeper whose alleged exposure to the chemical Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The National Center of Biotechnology and Information (NCBI) states “Current agricultural practices include the wide production and extensive use of chemicals known for their ability to cause negative health effects in humans and wildlife and to degrade the natural environment.” And continues on to suggest, “...chemicals may influence the development and severity of allergic reactions to plant foods, with especial focus on plant allergens under chemical stress.”

Are Peanuts the Solution to Peanut Allergies?

Could it be that by feeding your children peanut and egg products when they are still babies may actually help them avoid having food allergies later on in life? Well the answer may surprise you.  

Pediatrician Claire McCarthy, MD acknowledged that she had been offering the wrong advice to patients for years. She recently shared with Harvard Health online, “I’ve been a pediatrician for more than 25 years, and the standard advice I gave families for years — advice recommended by allergy specialists — was to hold off on giving babies foods that commonly cause allergic reactions. I told them not to give egg, dairy, seafood, or wheat in their child’s first year — and to wait until 2 or 3 years old to give peanuts or other nut products. That was bad advice.”

Recently, a study was released by the American Academy of Pediatrics that suggested giving babies peanut products earlier in life may make it less likely from them to develop a peanut allergy.

Dr. Gideon Lack, a professor of pediatric allergy at King’s College London, led an international team of researchers in the groundbreaking study based on the idea that Israeli children have lower rates of peanut allergy compared to Jewish children of similar ancestry residing in the United Kingdom. The study tested the hypothesis that the very low rates of peanut allergy in Israeli children were a result of high levels of peanut consumption beginning in infancy.

The study was made up of 600 babies who had severe eczema or egg allergy, which are known to increase the risk of peanut allergies. They were divided up into two groups. Group A was given Bamba to eat regularly (if they didn't like Bamba, they could eat smooth peanut butter), while Group B was told to stay away from foods containing peanuts. They did this until the children were 5 years old.

The findings concluded, “At 5 years, only 3 percent of the kids who ate peanut products were allergic to them—compared with 17 percent of those who didn't eat peanuts. This included children who tested positive for a peanut allergy as infants (those with strong positive tests, however, were not included in the study).”


Replacing Lost Nutrients Because of a Food Allergy

If you suffer from food allergies, you may require dietary workarounds to ensure you are receiving the proper amount of nutrients in your diet. It isn’t uncommon to be nutrient deficient if you have a food allergy.




ALTERNATIVES (If you are not allergic)


Protein, Calcium, Riboflavin, Phosphorus,Vitamins A, D, B12

Increase other protein-rich foods such as red meat, fish, poultry, legumes, broccoli and leafy greens like spinach, kale and arugula


Protein, Iron, Biotin, Folacin, Riboflavin, Vitamins A, D, E, B12

Try oily fish, poultry, legumes, cantaloupe, apricots, kale, sweet potatoes, carrots  fruit, vegetables and quinoa

Peanuts &

Tree Nuts

Protein, Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc

Try meats, fish, poultry; fruit, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, avocados, pineapples, spinach, chickpeas, watermelon and pork

Fish & Shellfish

Protein, Niacin, Vitamins

B6, B12, A, E

Incorporate more turkey, green peas, asparagus, sunflower seeds, brown rice, black beans, Greek yogurt and almonds (if you are not allergic)


I always suggest taking a nutrient test to fully identify the nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals you could be lacking. This would be especially important if you suffer from a food allergy and have been avoiding certain foods because of your allergy. And if you are not entirely sure which foods you are allergic to, consider taking an allergy test.


Words of Warning

It is not always possible to know if your baby has an existing food allergy. If you notice symptoms like vomiting, rashes, hives or sluggishness after feeding times, it is best to make a note of what food was served and immediately consult your pediatrician. Food allergies should be taken seriously and require urgent care in the event of an allergic reaction.

Peanut allergies aside, you should never give your baby or toddler whole peanuts. They are a choking hazard above all else. If you do decide to slowly introduce foods like eggs or peanut-based products to your baby or toddler make sure that it is smooth and small enough for them to easily consume.

And remember, it is always important to contact a competent healthcare professional before moving forward with drastic dietary changes.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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