Under current laws, food prepared on the premises where it is sold is not required to display allergen information. New legislation is set to change this, but what exactly is this ingredient labelling law and what impact will it have on UK food businesses?
What is Natasha’s Law?
The new legislation has come about following the tragic death in 2016 of teenager, Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, as a result of an allergic reaction to eating sesame in a freshly prepared baguette which did not display allergen information on the packaging. A consultation was held in early 2019 which proposed a number of different options on how rules around allergens could be tightened to offer additional protection to UK food allergy sufferers. It offered four options:
- Full ingredient list labelling
- Allergen-only labelling
- ‘Ask the staff’ labels on products
- Promoting best practice to businesses
According to the government, more than 70 percent of respondents backed the option for full ingredients labelling. This was also backed by the Food Standards Agency.
What will change?
Currently any food which is prepared and packed on the same premises from which it is sold is not required to carry labels, and if asked by a consumer, allergen information must be given in person by the food business. The new law will require food businesses to include full ingredients labelling on foods that are pre-packed for direct sale.
How can UK food businesses prepare for new allergen regulations?
Although the new law will not come into force until 2021, businesses are being encouraged to comply with the new legislation as soon as possible. So what steps can you take?
1. See it as an opportunity
Awareness around allergens has increased over the years but there are as many as two million allergy sufferers across the UK, many of whom find it difficult to buy food in shops and restaurants with confidence.
As a food business, getting ahead of the rule change and implementing it correctly will give consumers, especially allergy sufferers, confidence in what you have to offer, helping your business to establish a trusted reputation with customers who in turn may choose to shop with you in favour of your competitors.
2. Train your staff
Although your staff should already be well informed and able to communicate with your customers about allergens, to prepare for the implementation of the new legislation in 2021, further support and training could be wise to ensure you keep your customers, staff and your business protected.
3. Check whether you have public and products liability insurance
Public liability insurance offers protection for your business if a member of the public makes a claim for a covered event, for example if they suffer an allergic reaction after consuming your products. You would need to demonstrate that you have not been negligent and that you have adhered to legislation and guidelines, in which case your public liability insurance should cover the costs of the claim and any compensation.
With food-to-go still one of the fastest-growing areas in the retail and service sector, the implications of Natasha’s law are likely to be widely felt. Taking steps to prepare for it now will help to ensure you, your customers and your livelihood are protected.