‘Natasha’s Law’ will require all food businesses to include full ingredients labelling on pre-packaged food, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced.
It comes after Natasha, from Fulham, west London, suffered a severe allergic reaction after unknowingly eating sesame in an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette she had bought from a Pret a Manger branch at Heathrow Airport.
The 15-year-old died of anaphylaxis after collapsing on board a flight to Nice in July 2016.
In the UK, an estimated 2 million people are living with a diagnosed food allergy.
People can be allergic to all kinds of ingredients, from peanuts, egg, fish and shellfish to milk, mustard, wheat and sesame seeds. These allergens make some people ill, and in severe cases, the consequences can be deadly.
Allergens are no less impactful once cooked, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) warned, which is why it’s important for food vendors to practise good kitchen hygiene, and carefully separate, store and label ingredients when preparing food. So, with a law change on the horizon to protect those impacted by allergies, here’s everything we know about Natasha’s Law so far.
What Will The New Law Mean?
The new legislation will tighten existing rules by requiring foods that are pre-packaged directly for sale to carry a full list of ingredients, according to Defra.
The solution comes after the government launched a consultation into food labelling laws in January, with businesses and allergy suffers invited to have their say on four options put forward by the department.
Proposals included mandating full ingredient listing, allergen-only labelling, “ask the staff” labels on all products, or promoting best practice around communicating allergen information to consumers.
More than 70% of individuals backed the option for full ingredients labelling, Defra said, and recent advice from the FSA recommended full ingredients labelling.
Why Is It Needed?
At the moment, vendors are not required to display allergen information on the packaging of food that has been prepared on the premises where it is sold – such as a packaged sandwich or salad made by staff on site.
Instead, information on allergens in this context must be available to potential consumers prior to purchase. This may be on a menu, chalkboard, shelf label, or verbally, according to the FSA.
When Will It Come Into Effect?
The legislation is due to come into force by summer 2021 and will apply in England and Northern Ireland. Businesses will be given a two-year implementation period to prepare for the change.
Ministers in Scotland and Wales are reviewing the information gathered through the consultation, alongside advice from the FSA and Food Standards Scotland, and intend to make an announcement shortly.
Defra said food businesses across the country have already taken steps to improve food labelling. It is urging outlets to do all they can ahead of the implementation date to help consumers make safe food choices.
The trade body which represents the UK’s hospitality sector has cautioned that new food labelling practices could be “impractical and potentially hazardous”.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said: “We are worried that full ingredient labelling is going to prevent the kind of dialogue we need to promote.
“Some smaller businesses may struggle with the unwieldy new legislation and it is almost certainly going to lead to much less choice for customers.
“There is also a risk that the new measures, which will not circumvent cross-contamination and will be open to mislabelling, will only promote a dangerous reliance on labelling.”
Natasha’s parents, Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, said the introduction of the law would be a “fitting legacy” following their daughter’s death. The couple have also set up the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation in their daughter’s memory.
They said: “We are absolutely delighted that the secretary of state has announced the government’s decision to go ahead with full allergen and ingredient labelling.
“While Natasha’s Law comes too late to save our beloved daughter, we believe that helping save other allergy sufferers and their families from the enduring agony that we will always bear is a fitting legacy for her life.”
Allergy UK chief executive Carla Jones welcomed the announcement. “This move towards full ingredient labelling for pre-packed direct-sale food will improve the lives of the allergic customer and it is warmly welcomed here at Allergy UK,” she said.