Is Your Business Ready for Natasha’s Law?

Is Your Business Ready for Natasha’s Law?

Natasha’s Law will come into effect on 21st October 2021, affecting many food businesses throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The law – officially named the UK Food Information Amendment – is the legacy of late British teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperous. Natasha tragically died in 2016 after suffering an allergic reaction to sesame seeds in a Pret A Manger Baguette purchased at Heathrow airport. She was just 15.

Natasha was aware she had a potentially deadly allergy to sesame but presumed the artichoke, black olive and tapenade filling in her baguette was safe. Sadly the baguette itself had sesame seeds baked into the dough but, despite being one of the 14 most prevalent allergens, Pret A Manger was not legally expected to disclose the ingredients on the packaging.

Natasha’s parents were certain Natasha would never have bought the baguette if there had been a label detailing the ingredients on the packaging. They successfully lobbied the UK Government to change the law to force businesses to display allergen information and ingredients on all pre-packaged foods.

What does Natasha’s Law mean for food businesses?

Restaurants, pubs, takeaways, hotels, cinemas and all hospitality businesses will need to prepare for the new legislation and ensure they are compliant with regulations or risk criminal charges. The legislation is designed to protect those with allergies and give them greater control and reassurance that the food they buy is safe for them to eat.

At the moment, businesses selling foods that are pre-packaged for direct sale on the premises (“PPDS” for short), just like Pret A Manger, do not necessarily need to provide an ingredient list or allergen information on the packaging.

The law means that businesses will need to put a label on their PPDS products that clearly displays a comprehensive list of ingredients, with emphasis on key allergens within the list.

How do you ensure that your business complies?

Our advice for getting ready is:

Step One: Identify the products that fall under Natasha’s Law.

If your business pre-makes ready-to-eat products that are either taken away or eaten on the premises, the law applies to you – no matter the size or nature of your establishment. The law applies to products that are put on display for customers to select themselves and those that are stored behind a counter.

PPDS food can include:

  • Fast food that is packaged and wrapped in advance of an order and kept warm/chilled before being served
  • Sandwiches, rolls, wraps and bakery products that are packed on-site before a customer selects them
  • Products that are pre-packaged on-site like cooked pizzas, soups, porridge, salads, pasta pots, deserts and rotisserie chicken
  • Foods that are pre-weighed and packed such as cheese or meats at a deli or prepared sausages, burgers or pies and dishes at a butcher
  • Samples of products that are left out for customers to try

Help is at hand from Government and not-for-profit organisations. To help you identify which products are affected by the legislation, the FSA has developed a food-labelling decision tool to find out whether products sold by your business fall under Natasha’s Law labelling rules.

To help UK businesses prepare for Natasha’s Law, the not-for-profit organisation The UK Food Labelling Resource has been set up to provide information and support. The Natasha’s Law Business Conference takes place online from  6th – 8th July. To register, follow the link.

Step Two: Create a Labelling System.

A food label needs to clearly show the name of the food and ALL ingredients contained within. If the ingredients include any of the 14 most common allergens, these must be emphasised either in bold, italics, capitals, contrasting colours or underlined and must not be obscured or smudged. Even if your food doesn’t directly contain a specific allergen, if there is a risk of cross-contamination, you should include a “may contain” warning on the label.

The labelling system should ideally be digitally printed and it is best to maintain a central database where ingredient information for dishes can be stored, accessed and easily reviewed and updated.

Step Three: Create Procedures and Train Staff.

Ensuring that staff are adequately trained and familiar with the legislative changes is one of the most important aspects of preparing for Natasha’s Law. Training should include cross-contamination prevention, food storage and cleaning and food preparation procedures as well ingredient labelling requirements.

It’s important to ensure that employees are aware of their personal responsibilities as well as those of the wider business. The consequences of improperly labelling or handling food could lead to a criminal conviction for the food business operator and unlimited fines being issued in court.

The consequences of improper labelling of ingredients should not only be measured in terms of legal ones, of course. The entire purpose of Natasha’s law is to protect the millions of people affected by allergies, for whom an allergen labelling mishap could be far more costly than a fine.

At Magna FHS we can help your business prepare for Natasha’s law in multiple ways. From consultancy services, allergen awareness training and product labelling. To find out more about how we can help you get ready for Natasha’s Law, contact our friendly team.