Celia Marsh: Mom who had fatal reaction to Pret A Manger wrap was trampled by passersby as she lay dying

Sandwich chain customers stepped over Celia Marsh when she suffered anaphylaxis minutes after eating the flatbread

Celia Marsh: Mom who had fatal reaction to Pret A Manger wrap was trampled by passersby as she lay dying
Celia Marsh died after eating a wrap from Pret which was wrongly labelled as dairy-free (Screenshot/5 News YouTube)
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BATH, UNITED KINGDOM: A few minutes after eating a vegan flatbread from Pret a Manger, Celia Marsh suffered anaphylaxis, collapsed on the floor, and was trampled by customers according to witnesses. The woman died a few hours later from an allergic reaction to the yogurt in the wrap.

On December 27, 2017, while on a post-Christmas shopping excursion with her husband and kids, the 42-year-old purchased the super-vegetarian rainbow sarnie from a shop in Bath, Somerset. She did so even though the product contained yogurt as a dressing because it was labeled dairy-free. Senior coroner Maria Voisin found that the coconut yogurt from the Australian company CoYo, which was manufactured in the UK under license by the British company Planet Coconut, included residues of milk protein. And less than two hours later, Celia, who had avoided all dairy products ever since having an almost deadly allergic reaction some months prior, died.

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After a two-week inquest, Bristol's Avon Coroner's Court investigated the deceased, Voisin came to a narrative conclusion. Prior to Bath and North East Somerset Council's inquiry, it was previously reported that the wrap had been devoured in its whole and that the pot of CoYo used to prepare it had been thrown away. However, analysis of other pots revealed traces of dairy protein with other rainbow wraps also containing minor amounts. When Brendan Turvey, a civil servant with first aid training, arrived to assist Celia at the time, reported to The Sun that a throng had gathered around her as she lay on the ground in the busy roadway. One of the paramedics who responded to the incident, Shawn Eyles, informed that while she was receiving treatment, customers kept stepping over her. Since then, the family of dental nurse Celia from Melksham, Wiltshire, has lobbied for stricter testing and improved labeling of items supplied to allergy patients.

Her husband Andy, 51, who described his wife as his "best friend," commented to The Sun after the verdict: "Any manufacturer who makes something that is then labeled 'free from' has to take the responsibility for the testing to make sure it is exactly that. I want to see testing at every stage of the process to make sure nothing gets through the cracks and to provide a safety net. People with allergies are currently relying solely on the fact that the packaging says it is 'free from.' Surely more testing along the way - even if it is more time-consuming - would be better going forward." Brenna Grice, Celia's daughter, who was out to lunch when her mother passed away, mirrored his comments. "We walked down this street and saw a massive crowd - it was a very distressing scene. Someone we knew came up to us and told us it was our mum on the floor. We could not believe that it was our mum. Even though she had allergies, I never believed this would happen to her."

Kayleigh Grice, Brenna's sister, was shopping with her mother that day, too, but they branched off to go to a different lunch location. She made her point on the error made in labeling by saying, “Labeling has to be better for people with allergies. There have to be clearer messages. Mum was so on it with labeling, she would triple-check everything. If there was any hint that something may contain something she was allergic to, she wouldn't touch it or even go anywhere near it. Change has to come to make sure no other family goes through what we went through. This should not happen ever again."

Jennifer Gower, 72, Celia's mother, said how she had suffered from allergies since she was a youngster and had to be careful about what she ate. “Shortly before she died, I remember saying 'just to be safe, don't buy sandwiches from small stores or corner shops, go to a more reputable high street chain as there will be less chance of cross-contamination.' She said 'Ok mum'. She followed my advice when she bought that flatbread from Pret a Manger. Even though she did everything she could, Celia lost her life,” Gower told The Sun.

The coroner concluded that Celia suffered from allergy, which was brought on by the milk protein in the wrap she had purchased from Pret a Manger and consumed around 15 minutes earlier. According to her, Tate & Lyle's coconut yogurt, which was manufactured with HG1 starch, was discovered to contain milk protein. She said that although this starch was marked "dairy-free," it may have included traces of milk because it was produced at a facility that also produces dairy products. However, Pret a Manger was not informed of this possibility by the makers of the yogurt. 

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