This article was updated on 8 September 2021
Natasha’s Law – new allergen legislation that requires food packed on the same site from which it’s sold to be labelled with full ingredients – will be in force from October 2021.
The law was introduced in 2019 following the tragic death of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who suffered a fatal allergic reaction after eating a baguette bought from Pret a Manger.
As the law didn’t require sandwiches prepared on site to be labelled with allergen information, Natasha was unaware that the baguette contained sesame.
The government says that full ingredient labelling received “overwhelming” support from the public – here’s how food businesses can prepare for the change.
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At the moment, pre-packed food and drink prepared off site needs to be clearly labelled with an ingredients list and allergen information emphasised.
But if you’re making pre-packed food on site for direct sale (for example, sandwiches or salads you make and pack on site to sell on the same day), you just need to make sure that allergen information is given verbally or in writing.
This doesn’t need to be a label with a full ingredients list – it can be on a menu, chalkboard or information pack, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
It can also be a written notice that details how customers can find the information, like a sign that tells customers they should speak to staff.
Following Natasha Ednan-Laperouse’s death, her parents campaigned for a change to the law to better protect allergy sufferers.
The government consulted on various options, including ‘ask the staff’ labelling on products, but “received overwhelming support from consumers for full ingredients labelling, with more than 70 per cent of individuals backing this option.”
This means that:
The new law will come into force on 1 October 2021.
Heather Hancock, Chair of the Food Standards Agency, said: "Whilst it’s impossible to eliminate the risks entirely, we believe this change will mean better protection for allergic consumers."
The rules will apply to England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
For more information, visit:
The FSA has a list of example foods (as well as detailed technical guidance about the law) that count as pre-packed for direct sale, to help you understand whether you need to label the products you sell:
If you’re a food and drink business, it’s likely that you’re still trying to recover following lockdown.
Even so, it’s important to prepare for the upcoming change. Customers who suffer allergies and have bought food from you without problems should have the confidence to come back.
Here’s what you can do:
Tragic cases like Natasha’s shows that the consequences of mislabelling food products are severe.
You and your staff should already know about allergens and how to communicate them to customers. If you have staff and you aren’t doing so already, training employees on the new allergen legislation should minimise the risk of errors and mistakes when it comes to labelling.
Appropriate labelling means listing ingredients with allergen information emphasised (often in bold font) – there are 14 major allergens that you should be aware of.
Linking up a database of food products and ingredients to the way you print labels will help make sure that the correct information is transferred easily.
This database could record your products, recipes and ingredients, making it easy to track what’s being used and where.
Apps and technology can help you do this. For instance, a cloud-based tool called Andromeda aims to help takeaway and delivery businesses label their products with allergen information already available on their websites.
Another app called Ubamarket lets customers scan a product’s barcode, which instantly tells them whether it contains allergens.
While implementing technology might lead to more costs in the short-term, it could ultimately help you become more efficient. It’s worth investigating what technology is out there that will suit your business.
The best place to check for up-to-date information on allergen legislation is the FSA.
You can also speak to your local authority, as well as a legal professional if you want to get advice specific to your business.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are two million allergy sufferers across the country – and many find it difficult to buy food in shops and restaurants with confidence.
If you make the changes successfully, you’ll establish your reputation as a business that listens to the needs of allergy sufferers. This should encourage trust and loyalty.
Keep in mind that public liability insurance can cover you if someone suffers an allergic reaction after consuming your products.
It won’t cover you if you’ve been negligent and haven’t followed food hygiene or labelling regulations. But if you’ve followed all the rules and a customer has a reaction to something that didn’t need to be disclosed, public liability insurance can cover the resulting claim and compensation costs.
What do you think about Natasha’s Law? Let us know in the comments below.
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