On the evening of April 18, 2018, 14-year-old Ruben Bousquet was enjoying a movie at the Greenwich Odeon cinema with his family. The boy, a promising athlete on the London Knightz youth ice hockey team who was allergic to milk, eggs, and soy, was enjoying popcorn he had purchased at the cinema many times before. He began to feel ill and unfortunately had left his epinephrine auto-injector at home.
Judith Bousquet, Ruben’s mother, provided the following testimony at an inquest into his death in 2020:
As soon as he mentioned he didn’t feel well, we said “let’s go”. At that point there were no signs of great stress. When we walked to the car my husband asked how his breathing was, he said “that’s fine, that’s fine”.’
But at about two to three minutes from the house he started pulling at his throat. He couldn’t even talk, I could see he was struggling, struggling with everything. His chest was puffed up and swollen.
As soon as they arrived home, Ms Bousquet gave Ruben two doses of epinephrine after which the boy collapsed and fell unconscious. Despite his mother administering CPR, Ruben died a short time later.
It was subsequently determined the popcorn contained traces of milk introduced during the manufacturing process.
Ms Bousquet has now launched a campaign called “Judith’s Wish” in partnership with AllergyUK calling for better labeling of food.
Said Ms Bousquet:
I believe that if there were a more rigorous process to labeling across the whole food supply chain, Ruben may still be with us today. Full disclosure of ingredients accurately recorded and checked at every stage of the production and supply process is vital because it is this which enables people with food allergies to make safe food choices.
As a society, we simply don’t take allergies seriously enough for everyone to understand the role we all can play in helping those living with food allergies to stay safe.
Here is a video by AllergyUK about the Judith’s Wish campaign:
According to the UK Food Standards Agency, food businesses are not required to list the full ingredient list on package labels, a problem that also plagues allergen labeling in the United States.
Here in the US, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) sets regulations regarding food product labeling. Under current rules, ingredients can be hidden under broad categories including “spices” and “natural flavors”, and precautionary allergen labeling including statements like “may contain traces of peanuts” and “manufactured on equipment that also processes milk” are entirely voluntary, leaving consumers with food allergies exposed.
We at SnackSafely.com fully support Ms Bousquet’s efforts to address the UK labeling regime and urge the FDA to do likewise. To that end, we ask you to sign our petition, “Strengthen the Food Labeling Modernization Act to Protect the Allergic Community“, which has already garnered more than 13,000 signatures at this writing.
We once again extend our heartfelt condolences to the Bousquet family and wish Ms Bousquet much success in her efforts to make the UK safer for the food allergy community We will not forget Ruben.
- Mother of boy who died after eating cinema popcorn launches stricter labelling campaign — East London Lines
- Judith’s Wish — AllergyUK