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A Guide to Natasha’s Law and food labelling changes

Date 17 Aug, 2021 |
By: Angela Laycock

The aim of this article is to provide guidance on what is Natasha’s Law, what is prepacked for direct sale food, and how it will affect businesses. In addition, this article will address the key requirements of what food proprietors need to understand to comply.
To begin with, what is Natasha’s Law? Natasha’s Law is a new piece of legislation coming into force from the 1st October 2021. The new piece of legislation will require producers of prepacked for direct sale food to label it with the name of the food, the full list of ingredients and the allergens emphasized within the list. There are 14 major allergens that must be declared clearly on the label where they are used as ingredients in the food.
The 14 major allergens are:

  1. Celery
  2. Cereals containing gluten (such as barley and oats)
  3. Crustaceans (such as prawns, crabs, and lobsters)
  4. Eggs
  5. Fish
  6. Lupin
  7. Milk
  8. Molluscs (such as mussels and oysters)
  9. Mustard
  10. Peanuts
  11. Sesame seeds
  12. Soya
  13. Sulfur dioxide (sometimes known as sulphites) (if they are at concentrations of more than 10 parts per million)
  14. Nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, and macadamia nuts)

 
Where it is not easily identifiable by the ingredient name that there is an allergen present, for example, tofu, then next to the ingredient the name of the allergen must be stated, to illustrate this, tofu (soya), likewise, for cereals including containing gluten, the allergen should be emphasised, malt vinegar (barley). Furthermore, the nut being used must be declared as an allergen under these requirements such as almond, walnut.
The new piece of legislation will apply in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Natasha’s Law is named after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse. On 17th July 2016, Natasha, aged 15, died from anaphylaxis caused by a severe allergic reaction after eating a baguette that contained hidden sesame seeds, which were baked into the dough.
Natasha had brought the pre-packaged baguette at Heathrow Airport before boarding the plane to the South of France. At the time of the purchase of the baguette, there was partial information present on the label which gave some ingredients on the baguette but not all of it. As there was no allergen information present on the label this reassured Natasha that the baguette was safe for her to eat.
Following the tragic death of Natasha, her parents had campaigned for a change in the law as it was identified that if products were made and packaged on the same site that they were for direct sale to the consumer that it did not require allergen labelling; this was a major loophole and put allergen sufferers at serious risk of harm.
The Anaphylaxis Campaign charity state that in the UK, there are 1-2% of the adult population and 5-8% of the child population have a food allergy although there is a possibility that these figures could be much higher. The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation informs that “the number of people living with allergies in the UK is rising by 5% every year”. Furthermore, more children are being diagnosed with food allergies and there are increasing numbers of adults now being diagnosed with a food allergy. Therefore, it is so important that businesses who prepare, handle and pack food understand the allergen labelling requirements to minimise the risk of a catastrophic chain of events occurring.
What does prepack for direct sale mean? To keep it simple, it is a piece of food that has been made, packaged, and sold to consumers all on the same premises. To demonstrate this, a sandwich shop may make ten sandwiches in the morning, pack them up and put them out ready for customers to buy from their display unit. Another example could be a farm shop selling their own pastries on a temporary premises such as a market stall where they are already packaged for the consumer to purchase.
Pre-packaged foods are foods that are completely or partially packed and that the consumer or staff member cannot alter the product without opening or changing the packaging.
Where prepack for direct sale would not apply is where food is not in packaging. It also does not apply to foods that has been packed after a customer has ordered/purchased, for instance, a slice of cake purchased from a bakery that is to be placed into a paper bag or container.
Likewise, food that is packaged by one business and sold to another business to sell would not fall within the requirements of prepack for direct sale and these products must already have the allergen labelling requirements in place. These businesses should already have their products labelled with the name of the food, the full list of ingredients and the allergen ingredients emphasised within it.
The introduction of the new piece of legislation will bring prepack for direct sale foods in line with other foods that are prepacked.
Even though the new law does not take affect from the 1st October 2021, businesses should be now looking to implement the changes into their prepacked for direct sale foods. Use this period to help you understand and put into place the requirements.
To start with, for each product, ensure that you can identify all the ingredients within the food for sale. If you are ever unsure of the full ingredients list, always refer to the manufacturer’s labelling ingredients and if you are still unclear contact your supplier/manufacturer. Never guess or assume. Most of the time you will know of all the ingredients as you are making the product on your premises. It is always good practice to keep the original packaging from the manufacturer/supplier so that you have on record of the allergens present.
Once you are satisfied you have all the ingredients listed you can begin with producing your label. The following information must be displayed on the label to comply with this new piece of legislation:

  • Name of the food. This must be clearly stated and not misleading. If the food has been processed in some way, then this must be stated for example, smoked bacon.
  • List of ingredients. The ingredients must be listed in the order of the weight with the greatest first.
  • Allergen information. Where one of the 14 major allergens are present as highlighted earlier in this article then they must be declared by law. The allergens must be emphasised in the ingredients list, the most used emphasis is bold lettering, but you can use contrasting colours or underlining them. If you look at most of your food products you will find the bold letting is widely used. Please note, even the smallest amount of allergens present can lead to a severe allergic reaction, so it is important to declare the allergens present.

For further information for what else must feature on the food label please refer to this link https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/labelling-guidance-for-prepacked-for-direct-sale-ppds-food-products.
If there is the potential for cross contamination or the food being affected by a food allergen that is not within the ingredients of the product, then you are also permitted to include the following statements:

  • May contain ‘INSERT ALLERGEN’
  • Not suitable for someone with a ‘INSERT ALLERGEN’ allergy.

However, using the above terminology when there is no real risk could be considered misleading. The above phrases should only be considered when there has a been risk assessment carried out to determine the likelihood of an unintentional allergen present. If from this risk assessment it is likely that there could be an unintentional allergen present then you can add the precautionary allergen labelling.
All the information presented on the label should be visibly clear and easily understandable for the consumer to read and in a format where it cannot be erased. Finally, it is important to check before placing the label onto the product that all the information is present and correct. Often or not, product recalls occur due to undeclared allergens mentioned on the label.
When you are listing your ingredients be specific on what the ingredient is instead of saying fish, what type of fish, for example, cod (fish).
Employees and anyone working in a food establishment should have a good level of understanding of allergens. By having those working with food trained in allergens will help ensure the safety of your consumers.
The Food Standards Agency offer a free online training course which can be accessed here: https://allergytraining.food.gov.uk/. To keep employees and those working in the food industry up to date with their knowledge training should be ongoing and refreshed.

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