UK – UK industry’s first food allergen labeling policy, popularly known as Natasha’s Law, meant to help people suffering from food allergies, intolerances and coeliac disease make safer choices when buying food, has finally come into effect.
The new policy, which was introduced after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died as a direct result of the consumption of a pre-packaged baguette which contained sesame seeds but did not declare allergens on its packaging, compels businesses to label all food that is prepacked for direct sale with a full list of ingredients. The list includes the 14 major allergens identified by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA).
The non-profit GS1 UK last month published data looking into how businesses are shaping up for the regulation. The survey revealed that as the October 1 deadline drew near, 81% of businesses did not feel prepared, while 41% of them were “oblivious” to it.
Products that will now need to be labeled include pre-wrapped sandwiches, fast food that’s already in packaging before a customer places their order, and supermarket items such as cheeses and meat from the deli counter that are already wrapped and ready to be served.
FSA Chief Executive, Emily Miles, commended that this was a huge step in helping to improve the quality of life for around two million people living with food allergies in the country.
“If these changes drive down the number of hospital admissions caused by food allergies, which has increased threefold over the past 20 years, and prevent further tragic deaths such as Natasha’s, that can only be a positive thing,” she said.
Guidance for businesses
Local authorities are advised to take a proportionate and risk-based approach to breaches of the law, unless immediate action is required. The FSA is advising that minor errors are dealt with through extra guidance and support with the changes, particularly during the early months.
The FSA has been supporting businesses to prepare for the changes for well over a year, with tools to help them understand which products are covered by the new rules, labeling guidance and sector-specific advice available on their online PPDS Hub.
“The past 18 months have been difficult for food businesses, and I am grateful for the effort that so many have made to prepare for the changes,” says Miles.
Enabling protection through labels
Natasha’s parents, Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse described the introduction of Natasha’s Law as a bittersweet moment for them, according to Food Ingredients First.
“We are delighted that people with food allergies will now have great protection through improved labeling and we know in our hearts that Natasha would be very proud of a new law in her name. However, the new law also reminds us that Natasha’s death was completely avoidable. Natasha’s Law is about saving lives and marks a major milestone in our campaign to support people in this country with food allergies,” they state.
According to the Ednan-Laperouses, the new law will give people with food allergies confidence when they are buying pre-packaged food for direct sale (PPDS), such as sandwiches and salads.
The FSA is also encouraging consumers to make their allergies known to food business staff. This message was highlighted in their #SpeakUpForAllergies campaign earlier this year which encouraged young people to speak about their allergies when ordering food.
“Transparency around allergens is a key issue for our customers and the out-of-home sector continues to support the government’s agenda on improving food safety and clarity of information available,” says Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality.