Is your business ready?
The UK Food Information Amendment – Natasha’s Law – will come into force in October 2021. An important development in helping prevent the serious effects of food allergies, this law deals with labelling products that have been packed on premises ready for sale. It was brought into force to strengthen the 2014 Food Information to Consumers legislation, and followed a period of dedicated campaigning by the parents of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who tragically lost her life after eating a sandwich containing the allergen sesame. At the time, foods prepared in house and packaged for later sale were not required to be labelled individually.
Who does it affect?
Natasha’s law applies to any business that is preparing, packing and selling food from the same premises, or food that is packed and then sold from a mobile stall or vehicle. This includes: cafes and coffee shops, takeaway and fish & chip restaurants, sandwich shops, farm shops, as well as work, school and hospital canteens. Voluntary and charity organisations who undertake fundraising events such as bake sales will also need to consider how they package their goods and whether they need to apply the new rules.
When does it come into force?
Natasha’s law was created in September 2019, and comes into force in October 2021 throughout the UK.
When will Natasha’s Law apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland authorities have confirmed that the law will be adopted throughout the whole of the UK from October 2021.
What foods are covered by Natasha’s law?
Any food which is Pre-Packed for Direct Sale (PPDS); that means prepared in-house, wrapped or placed in packaging, ready for the customer. This includes food that customers select themselves, as well as pre-wrapped items, kept behind a counter. Products include sandwiches, salads, snacks and cakes; to check if you sell products that are classed as PPDS, use this tool created by the FSA.
What must we do?
All PPDS products will need to be clearly labelled with the name of the food and a full list of all ingredients. Any named allergens (from the 14 named allergens list) must be highlighted within the ingredients list, for example by printing them in bold, italics or a different colour. An exception to this rules is products with a surface area of less than 10cm2 – if this applies to your products, have a look at the FSA website to understand your responsibilties.
What are the penalties for non compliance?
Businesses failing to follow the new rules could face a fine of up to £5,000 per offence. But more importantly, the damage to the reputation of your business if a serious allergy incident occurs is almost impossible to calculate.
What else should I think about?
The death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse highlights the importance of food allergen awareness within all food businesses. Any business that sells or is planning to sell pre-packed foods would be sensible to consider their operations and processes now, in order to allow all required changes to be in place and tested before October 2021.
As well as considering the physical labelling requirements, food businesses will also need to think about their production process and staff training implications. It is vital that your business has a clear allergen policy, which allows both staff and customers to understand any risks that are present to allergy sufferers. Staff must fully understand any processes that they are expected to undertake when creating meals that fulfil any allergy-free claims you make, and those who communicate with customers must be able to do so truthfully and confidently.
All Safer Food Group training courses that contain allergy awareness advice include guidance on Natasha’s Law – and our all new Level 2 Allergy Awareness course for food handlers has been entirely updated and relaunched in September 2021, to comprehensively cover this subject.
Whilst Natasha’s law makes information more readily available and therefore easier for staff to communicate accurate ingredients information, the key message for all staff in food preparation is the importance of consistency in and clear communication of ingredients and recipes. Allergen training, whether in-house or with certified training courses, is a vital step in keeping your customers, staff and your business safe.