On October 1 2021, Natasha’s Law came into effect. The law changed the way pre-packed for direct sale food (PPDS) is labelled to ensure packaging displays a full list of ingredients with known allergens emphasized in bold.
The law is named after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, a 15-year-old who tragically died from anaphylaxis after eating a prepackaged baguette that contained unlabelled sesame seeds. It has been welcomed by both consumers and sellers of products as a way to better protect hypersensitive people who may be affected by even trace amounts of allergens.
Natasha’s parents set up the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation as a result and campaigned for a change in the UK law to close the loophole that meant some prepackaged foods did not need to list the full ingredients and allergy information.
Brought into effect through the lobbying of Natasha’s parents with the help of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Natasha’s Law is known legally as the UK Food Information Amendment (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2019/1218/contents/made0). The law applies to all establishments selling pre-packed food in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
With two million people in the UK considered as having a food allergy, the government agreed that stronger laws were necessary to protect against harm and allow consumers to make a better risk judgment.
The new rules apply to the sale of Prepacked for Direct Sale (PPDS) foods made on-site.
These are products that are prepared, packaged, and offered or sold to consumers on the same premises. The rules apply equally to foods consumers pick themselves from a display or request from behind a counter. It also applies to mobile, temporary, and pop-up outlets such as food trucks and market stalls.
The death of Natasha has demonstrated the all-too-high cost of not properly labelling products. Ambiguous labelling is not only confusing for consumers but can have terrible health implications. Knowing when the law applies and when it doesn’t is important.
PPDS food includes the following:
The new law states that foods should include:
The 14 allergens that are now required by law to be emphasized in the ingredients list are:
“Emphasizing” these allergens can be done using bold type, capital letters, contrasting colours or through underlining.
An example of a legally compliant ingredients label is below:
Importantly, indicating the presence of an allergen is not legally required when the name of the product itself clearly refers to a known allergenic foodstuff, such as “milk.” Most businesses choose to still include the allergen in the ingredients list, however, to avoid confusion and ambiguity.
More information on compliance with the law can be found at the Food.gov website.
Natasha’s Law is already in effect, coming into law October 1 2021.
Your food is exempt from the labelling law if you answer NO to any of the three following questions:
Aside from the potential impact on your customer’s health, the penalty for non-compliance is a fine of up to £5000 per instance.
Though the law applies to all types of outlets offering food, it only applies to prepacked food. For some situations, this means understanding if the law applies or not.
For school catering, the law is especially important.
Food allergies are particularly common in children (https://www.bupa.co.uk/newsroom/ourviews/child-food-allergy), with around 1 in 5 suffering from the affliction. When it comes to schools, then, the implications of ambiguous labelling are even bigger.
If accidentally or unknowing consumed by children, symptoms may simply be itchy eyes, a scratchy throat or a runny nose. However, more severe reactions include difficulty breathing, nausea, and diarrhoea.
Schools can meet their obligations by ensuring that all food made and packaged on-site where the child picks the food themselves falls in line with the law.
Bake sales and charity events where donated home-baked goods are on offer do not need to comply with the law.
This is because they have been made offsite and do not come prepacked. The same goes for barbecue events offering burgers and sausages on-site.
Nevertheless, organizations are encouraged to promote safe food standards where possible and request those making food keep track of included allergens if possible to better inform consumers.
Natasha’s law does not apply to food that is not prepacked, so self-service outlets are exempt. If an event, carvery or restaurant has a buffet arrangement, this means there is no legal requirement to list known allergens.
However, if a single food item is served on a plate, wrapped in cling film, for instance, prior to selection by the customer, this would fall under the new law and would require compliance.
Importantly, allergen information is still required in the case of self-service but can be communicated through other means, such as verbally.
The new labelling law does not apply to prepacked direct for sale food sold by distance sellers. This includes food ordered over the phone or the internet.
Nevertheless, the information on the top 14 allergens must still be available for the customer in some form.
Learning the ins and outs of Natasha’s Law is necessary for complying with UK law. It is also worthwhile to ensure the safety of your customers.
The best way to keep your business and your customers safe is to take a course on Natasha’s Law (https://www.theaccessgroup.com/en-gb/hospitality/resources/natashas-law/allergen-and-natasha-s-law-e-learning-course/). This way, consumers can be confident in their food choices, and you can be confident your business is compliant with the new standards.