Natasha’s Law: new allergen labelling changes
Businesses are being urged to start making the preparations needed as food safety and labelling related breaches can lead to significant fines.
On 1 October 2021 the law relating to allergen labelling for pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) foods will change in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Pursuant to changes introduced by the Food Information (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2019, also known as Natasha’s Law, any business selling PPDS foods will have to include a full list of ingredients on the product label with allergenic ingredients emphasised.
Call for changes to allergen labelling
These changes have been introduced following the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse in July 2016 caused by an allergic reaction to sesame seeds in a pre-packed baguette which did not require allergen labelling. The inquest into Natasha’s death highlighted a risk of future deaths occurring unless action was taken to address the current law (set out in the Food Information Regulations 2014) which does not require retailers who make fresh food on their own premises to provide allergen information on the packaging.
What food is covered by Natasha’s Law
PPDS food is defined as ‘any single item for presentation as such to the final consumer and mass caterers, consisting of a food and the packaging into which it was put before being offered for sale, whether such packaging encloses the food completely or only partially, but in any event in such a way that the contents cannot be altered without opening or changing the packaging’.
This covers food which is packaged at the same place it is offered or sold to consumers and is in this packaging before it is ordered or selected. If food is packaged after being ordered or selected by the consumer, a label is not required. However, allergen information must still be provided, for example through signage or verbal means.
Examples of PPDS include:
- Sandwiches, salad, baked goods and pizza packed on site before a customer chooses them
- Burgers and sausages pre-packed by a butcher on the premises ready for sale
- Foods packaged and sold elsewhere by the same operator at a market stall or mobile site
- Pre-packed food for sale in schools, hospitals and other settings.
The new labelling requirements do not apply to PPDS food which is sold by way of distance selling such as food ordered by phone or via the internet. However, allergen information must be made available before purchase and when the food is delivered.
Practical implications of Natasha’s Law
Following the death of Natasha, Pret a Manger reportedly invested £20 million in overhauling its food safety procedures including rolling out full ingredient labelling in 2019. Pret has shared the learning from its own labelling pilots with the wider food industry and a number of other big chains and supermarkets have already implemented the necessary changes to meet the requirements of the legislation.
However, many smaller food businesses, which have already been devastated by the impacts of the pandemic, are likely to struggle with the costs of making changes to their processes and the investment needed in new IT and printer systems. Businesses are being urged to start making the preparations needed as there may need to be adjustments made to product ranges, information gathered from suppliers and more staff training on food allergens.
Food safety and labelling related breaches can lead to significant fines, especially given that food businesses can be prosecuted for every labelling error identified. In April 2021, Tesco Stores Limited was fined £7.6 million at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to 22 breaches of the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 following the discovery of a number of food items displayed for sale beyond their use by dates.
New labelling guidance has been published by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to assist businesses to get to grips with Natasha’s Law.
Further information on this and other upcoming developments can also be sought from our team of regulatory specialists.