20 Oct 2021 Is Natasha’s Law Enough to Protect Allergy Sufferers?
Natasha’s Law finally came into force this month. Were you ready for it?
Research from GS1 UK in September showed that 8 in 10 food businesses affected by the new legislation felt unprepared for it, and even more worryingly almost half of the employees in small independent businesses hadn’t even heard of it.
The research demonstrated there is still an inconsistent level of awareness of the new legislation, and of allergy issues in general.
Allergy legislation isn’t enough if allergy awareness is lacking
There’s growing concern that even though Natasha’s Law is a huge leap forward in allergy and Food Safety legislation, not enough is being done by the government to protect allergy sufferers from the risk of harm.
GS1 UK’s research showed that only 39% of businesses had invested in training to prepare their employees for Natasha’s Law, and 67% suggested that the government should have provided financial support for businesses to prepare for the transition as the cost could be a barrier.
The government needs to do more to protect allergy sufferers
Anxious families of food allergy sufferers have been lobbying the government to do more to protect the 2 million allergy sufferers in the UK. These lobbyists main concern is that there’s an apparent lack of awareness about the dangers of allergies which necessitates strict intervention from official sources.
Whether the country was prepared or ready enough for Natasha’s Law aside, the overriding concern is that Natasha’s law isn’t enough because it only legislates for food that is pre-prepared and packaged. Takeaways where food is prepared fresh and restaurants and cafes where you eat on the premises haven’t been included in the update to allergy legislation. This premises still fall under the existing legislation which is Food Information for Consumers Regulations 2014.
Could this be a massive oversight that endangers lives?
Natasha’s Law has been heralded as a “step forward” in allergy awareness and protection when it comes to prepackaged food for direct sale.
Under current legislation, if a diner suffers an allergic reaction in a restaurant, the business is not required to report the incident to the authorities. Nowadays it’s common to be asked about any allergies when you walk into a restaurant, but although some of these businesses take it upon themselves to appear to have more consideration for the seriousness of allergies, they don’t have any legal or official accountability.
At the moment, the only liability a restaurant has is, in terms of allergen reporting and protecting allergy sufferers, is that if they make a claim that any item on their menu is “free from” a specific allergen and then there is a subsequent reaction when someone eats it.
Calls for a single point of responsibility for allergy awareness and legislation at Government-Level
There is an urgent call for more accountability amongst restauranteurs and the Government. Lobbyists have encouraged the government to consider appointing an allergy tsar to develop allergy policy and legislation and roll it out country-wide.
Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, the mother of Natasha whose eponymous law was passed because Natasha died needlessly from anaphylaxis after unknowingly consuming sesame, has launched a petition calling for the government to appoint an allergy tsar. She says,
“Allergic disease is increasing in the UK to epidemic levels. Yet, for far too long, allergy services have been treated as a Cinderella service in the NHS. It is time people living with allergic disease in the UK had their own champion. That’s why I … call for the Government to appoint an Allergy Tsar. Our daughters’ deaths were entirely preventable.”
Lobbyists are also calling for more training for all food handlers and food businesses in the UK, irrespective of where their products are prepared and consumed.
The Department for Health and Social Care said: “It is essential that all UK consumers have complete trust in the food they are eating. The government continues to work closely with the Food Standards Agency on the current allergens framework.”
Is a continuation of the status quo really enough?
For more clarity and peace of mind for those who risk the potentially deadly consequences of suffering an allergic reaction, lobbyists believe that all and any food establishments should be held to the same standards.
As UK businesses continue to get to grips with Natasha’s Law, the spotlight is far from off allergen awareness and the responsibility of the food industry to keep people safe.
Even if Natasha’s Law isn’t applicable to your business directly, the importance of allergy awareness and keeping consumers safe and informed is ethically relevant for all businesses that provide food for human consumption.
Ensure your business is doing what it can to keep consumers safe – book Allergen Awareness training here