Natasha Ednan-Laperouse tragically passed away in 2016 after suffering an allergic reaction from eating a shop purchased sandwich. Following this, a new law, Natasha’s Law, will be introduced in October 2021 which requires full ingredients labelling on all foods. Let’s discuss the implications of Natasha’s Law for food businesses.
Why was it essential to introduce Natasha’s Law?
Following the tragic death of Natasha, the government confirmed stronger laws would be implemented to protect those with allergies and give them greater confidence in the food they buy.
We’re seeing a growing number of people with allergies. There are now 1 in 4 people living with allergies in the UK. There has also been a rise in children with allergies and in adults without any past allergic history who are suddenly becoming intolerant to what they always had considered to be “safe foods”.
This, in combination with Natasha’s death and other unfortunate incidents where allergy sufferers have mistakenly consumed food they’re intolerant to, highlights the need for such a law to be introduced.
The introduction of the law calls for greater transparency for consumers and places more emphasis on what people are buying and eating. It lays down new standards for food companies and highlights the battle against the rising challenge of allergen management.
What are the current regulations?
In the UK, food manufacturing businesses must advise you if they use any of 14 key allergens as ingredients in the food and drink they provide. These are:
- cereals containing gluten – including wheat, rye, barley and oats
- crustaceans – such as prawns, crabs and lobsters
- molluscs – such as mussels and oysters
- tree nuts – including almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts
- sesame seeds
- sulphur dioxide and sulphites (if they’re at a concentration of more than 10parts per million
The current law doesn’t apply to takeaway shops and sandwich shops. It prescribes that food prepared on the premises in which it’s sold isn’t required to display allergen information in writing. This means allergy sufferers sometimes don’t know what’s in the food they eat unless they specifically ask.
So, a sandwich or salad made on site doesn’t need to include any allergen information at all. However, if a consumer asks for allergen information, this must be given in person by the food business.
What changes will Natasha’s Law bring?
The new law will make it easier for allergy sufferers to make clearer and safer choices when buying food.
And it’s not just restricted to foods prepared and packed on premises from which they’re sold. It will also cover full labelling requirements for large scale manufacturers of foods – such as a pre-packaged sandwich or salad.
The new law will come into force by October 2021, providing businesses with sufficient time to make necessary changes to adapt.
The introduction of ‘Natasha’s Law’ follows a consultation process in January, proposing four options, including:
- Full ingredient list labelling.
- Allergen-only labelling.
- ‘Ask the staff’ labels on products.
- Promoting best practices to businesses.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) will publish information for industry on October 1 to help ensure that businesses of all sizes can prepare and adapt to these changes in legislation.
What changes can we expect?
- Business to include a more comprehensive list of allergens that must be declared.
- Sandwiches and salads that are made on-site to include a full list of ingredients to comply with this law.
How will it impact food manufacturers and suppliers?
Now more than ever, packaging will be a major driver in the sales of food. Consumers will be focusing on the ingredients more closely than before and food sellers must consider:
- Packaging design and layout.
- Location and content of ingredients label.
- Multi-language translations for international sales.
- Size of ingredients label area – will rebranding be required to meet the new law?
Ingredients and recipe control will need to follow a much tighter process, which means suppliers of ingredients must declare any allergen information in full.
So, suppliers need to consider:
- Whether they have a robust ingredients database.
- Security/permission controls to access and update the database.
- Recipe and ingredients traceability
- Auditable system to ensure compliance with the new law.
- Effective change management to ensure ingredients are updated.
Investing in the right technology can help food manufacturers
Having a solution that enables the effective management and display of potential allergens is critical. To offer the level of detail we discussed above, food producers will need to ensure that they have robust systems to capture and hold in-depth ingredient information. The systems will then translate this to a “consumer-friendly” label.
Alongside this, you’ll also need to partner with the right digital solutions consultancy. You need to find a team that has the industry expertise and scale to help you throughout the implementation of your solution. The ideal consultancy won’t abandon you after the implementation project either. They’ll proactively monitor your systems to ensure it’s running as it should and will be on hand to support your team whenever needed.
We’ve got a guide that covers how you can ensure your products comply with the changing regulations and reduce the risk of recalls and labelling errors. We’ll also show you the potential of investing in the right software to improve traceability. Download it below.