From 1st October 2021, Natasha’s Law will come into effect. In this article, we explore how the law will impact businesses and what you need to know to prepare.
Around two million people are thought to live with food allergies in the UK with the consequences of allergic reaction and anaphylaxis potentially serious or even deadly. Deaths from food allergies have declined over the past 20 years, with less than 10 fatalities in the UK per year, but hospital admissions have increased – so, while there is more success in treating severe allergic reactions successfully, there is still more we can do to keep our customers safe.
What is the current law?
On December 13th, 2014, the Food Information to Consumers (FIC) passed legislation requiring allergen labelling on pre-packaged foods to be given more clarity and emphasis. The same legislation introduced a mandatory requirement for allergen information to be provided on non-pre-packaged foods, including the food served in bars, restaurants, and cafes.
Under the legislation, customers must be told if their food contains any of the following 14 allergens:
- Cereals containing gluten e.g., Spelt, wheat, rye and barley
- Crustaceans e.g., Crabs, lobster, prawns
- Lupin – which can be found in some types of bread, pastries and pasta
- Molluscs e.g., mussels, land snails, squid
- Tree nuts – such as almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts
- Sesame seeds
- Sulphur dioxide – sometimes used as a preservative in dried fruit, meat products, soft drinks and vegetables
However, businesses can currently choose how they give the information on allergens contained in their food for example, through conversations with customers, leaflets, food labelling and highlighting ingredients on menus. Furthermore, freshly made non-pre-packaged food does not legally require a full ingredient list on product labels.
Many businesses have already implemented improvements to the clarity of their allergen labelling and we urge any food business to look at their current procedures to help protect customers.
What is Natasha’s Law?
In July 2016 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse suffered a fatal allergic reaction after eating a packaged baguette which did not require allergen labelling. Natasha was well experienced in managing her allergies but felt confident in her food choice because no allergens were declared on the packaging. This tragic incident demonstrates just how important clear food labelling can be. Unfortunately, incidences of misunderstanding, miscommunication and assumptions can have serious and fatal consequences for allergy sufferers.
Natasha’s Law will come into effect in October 2021, and all businesses based in England will be required to clearly label all foods packaged and produced on their premises with a complete list of ingredients.
Who will be affected?
Natasha’s Law will apply in England, Wales and Nothern Ireland, and with the legislative guidance sure to have a profound effect on customers, we encourage all businesses to prepare to adapt to the new guidelines.
Businesses such as delis, cafes and ‘grab and go’ food service retailers that sell food pre-packaged for direct sale (PPDS) must legally provide full ingredient lists on individual packaging from October 2021.
Other food service businesses, such as pubs and restaurants will not be directly affected by Natasha’s Law, but again, it is worth looking at current processes to ensure allergen information is being communicated clearly. For example, by highlighting allergens on the menu and training team members in the different allergens to reduce incidences of misinformation being communicated to customers.
Preparing for Natasha’s Law
As well as making any necessary changes to menus and labelling for customers for operators affected by Natasha’s Law, training staff in allergens awareness is vital for all food service team members.
In April 2017, 18-year-old Owen Carey told staff about his dairy allergy when ordering food at a restaurant and was told that it did not contain dairy. However, the food had been marinated in buttermilk and the teenager suffered a fatal anaphylactic shock as a result. This is another tragic incident that demonstrates the utmost importance of training and communication with team members.
Next month we are releasing our newly updated Allergens course for team members. This allergens course is the only course on the market to be endorsed by Allergy Accreditation. Allergen Accreditation provides the benchmark for operators to develop their KPI’s, systems and procedures for managing the new legislation as well as Full Allergen Disclosure. The course has been developed in collaboration with Cater Cloud, who lead the field in integrated solutions for Allergen, Nutrition, Menu Planning and Costing.
The course guides learners through the definitions of allergies vs. intolerances and introduces the 14 allergens and how these are controlled in a food and drink operation. The course specifically outlines the Natasha’s Law legislation and what is needed to comply, as well as exploring the often-overlooked topic of allergens in drinks. Learners will build awareness of different allergen risks and be able to practice safe allergen management.
Our new Allergens and Natasha’s Law online course is available now.