Posted: 02/01/2021

Is your business ready for Natasha’s Law labelling changes


Is your business ready for Natasha's Law labelling changes
credit: Rhug Estate

Allergen labelling has been a talking point in the foodservice industry ever since the 2016 death of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse – caused by an allergic reaction to sesame in a baguette she had bought from a popular food-to-go chain.

As a result, new, tighter regulations are coming into force in October 2021, and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has launched a campaign to help businesses prepare for the change in law.

But, according to a recent report by business technology provider Brother UK, only 20% of businesses selling food-to-go are prepared for the deadline next year, while as low as one in 10 independents are reported as being ready.

Natasha’s Law, named after Ednan-Laperouse, will force businesses to be more vigilant when it comes to highlighting potential allergens that pre-packed food items made on site may contain or have come into contact with, as well as be more transparent about all ingredients.

Rebecca Sudworth, director of policy at the FSA says that, despite the current challenging times for food businesses, they must check whether they are affected by this change in law and meet its requirements. 

“It is important to get it right – not just for your business, but for the millions of people in the UK living with a food allergy or intolerance,” she says.

The changes only affect pre-packed food for direct sale (PPDS), which refers to food that is made on site and at least partly packaged before the customer selects it. To qualify as PPDS, the food item must be enclosed to the extent that it cannot be altered without opening the packaging and is ready for final sale to the customer. The law also applies to items taken off site to be sold remotely, for example at a market or from a van.

The 14 allergens
Celery
Cereals containing gluten
incl. wheat, rye, barley and oats
Crustaceans – such as prawns,
crabs and lobsters
Eggs
Fish
Lupin
Milk
Molluscs – incl. mussels
and oysters
Mustard
Tree nuts – almonds,
hazelnuts, walnuts,
brazils, cashews,
pecans, pistachios,
macadamia nuts etc.
Peanuts
Sesame seeds
Soybeans
Sulphur dioxide and
sulphites (more than ten
parts per million)

From 1st October 2021, labels will have to display the name of the food and a full list of ingredients, as well as highlight any of the 14 key allergens required to be declared by food law that are present in the product. Meeting all these requirements is what charity Allergy UK calls the ‘gold standard’ of allergen labelling.

From 1st October 2021, labels will have to display the name of the food and a full list of ingredients, as well as highlight any of the 14 key allergens required to be declared by food law that are present in the product. Meeting all these requirements is what charity Allergy UK calls the ‘gold standard’ of allergen labelling.

A spokesperson from the organisation says: “This new law for PPDS foods is a welcome step in protecting people with food allergies which could save lives.

“For those at greatest risk, the tiniest trace of an allergen can trigger severe symptoms and in some cases be fatal. We strongly encourage food businesses to find out how the new allergen labelling legislation will affect them.”

Café Rhug in Denbighshire, North Wales – part of the Rhug Estate Farm Shop – stocks a sizeable range of PPDS food items, such as sandwiches and salads, and its deputy manager Amy Coleman has welcomed the changes. “I think clearer labelling can only be for the better for both the consumer and the retailer,” she says.

“Over the next 12 months, we will be displaying full ingredients lists on all PPDS items. Our staff have already received training on how to implement this, so we will start over winter.”

To ensure compliance with allergen legislation, the FSA recommends regular risk assessments, and the upcoming change is another opportunity to perform a “life-saving, meaningful risk assessment”. 

“Everyone deserves to be able to make safer choices when they buy their food,” Sudworth says.

So, despite having nearly 10 months to prepare for the law to come into effect, there is no time like the present when it comes to keeping your customers safe.

Further information and technical guidance is available at food.gov.uk

The FSA’s allergen checklist

  • Food storage
  • Are ingredients stored in sealed and labelled containers?
  • If transfering foods from their original packaging do you have a way of identifying allergens?
  • Are open ingredient packages stored in sealed containers where appropriate?
  • Do you have a spillage policy to deal with spillages of one ingredient onto another?

Food preparation

  • Do you have accurate recipe lists, so that there is a clear list of the allergens present in the food you serve?
  • Do you have reminders in place to update records when you make recipe changes?
  • Do you wash your hands thoroughly when preparing allergen-free meals?
  • When an order comes in from an allergic customer, do you have a clear process in place to ensure that the food can be safely prepared and served to the correct customer?
  • Are you aware of the allergens in garnishes, toppings, sauces or dressings?
  • Do you clean kitchen surfaces regularly so that there is no visible food debris?

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