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Allergen labelling rules known as Natasha’s Law come into force from 1st October, but independent businesses have cited difficulties preparing for the regulations. The rules require full ingredient lists to be provided with the 14 major allergens emphasised on food that is packaged on the same site where it is sold to customers. It follows the tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who suffered an allergic reaction to an ingredient in a prepacked baguette.
According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), products that will now require labels include pre-wrapped sandwiches and items such as cheeses and meat from the deli counter that are already wrapped and ready to be served. Businesses of all shapes and sizes – from small sandwich shops to cafés and school catering companies to major supermarket chains – will be affected.
“If these changes drive down the number of hospital admissions caused by food allergies, which has increased threefold over the past 20 years, and prevent further tragic deaths such as Natasha’s, that can only be a positive thing,” said FSA chief executive Emily Miles. “I understand how difficult the past 18 months have been for food businesses, and I am grateful for the effort that so many have made to prepare for the changes.”
Recent data has shown that independent businesses are less prepared for the new rules than chains, with around 50% more chain and franchise employees having heard of Natasha’s Law than those in small independent food businesses, according to a survey by GS1 UK.
So how can shops ensure they are up-to-date with the latest rules and requirements? “If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to establish good relationships with your suppliers,” said Sam Roberts, sector director at mpro5, a digital transformation solution provider. “You’ll need them to provide detailed ingredient information and notify you promptly of any changes, as even the slightest tweak to an ingredient could have huge implications.”
On a practical level, how are you preparing your new labels? “Handwritten labels aren’t exactly ideal,” Sam said, “so you’ll need to think about the type of printer and labels you require, which of course depends on the food being offered and the size of your operation.”
Staff training will also be key, as employees must know what to do when a new item is added to the menu or if there is a change of recipe. “It is imperative that all staff are properly trained on how to handle customer queries, find the correct information, and how to communicate effectively with customers and other staff to ensure customers are safe from allergens,” said Tash Blythe, food and drink specialist at High Speed Training.
“It could be seen as a burden on small businesses that tend to produce more PPDS products than larger businesses, however, considering the prevalence of allergies, and the importance of keeping consumers safe, it’s a necessary one that businesses are going to have to get used to,” Tash added.
Sam echoed Tash, explaining that while complying with the new rules won’t be easy, especially for small businesses with fewer resources, it is for a worthy cause. “At the end of the day, anything the food industry can do to help consumers make safer food choices and prevent future tragedies should be openly embraced,” he said.
The importance of the new regulations is driven home by Natasha’s parents, Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, who said: “Natasha’s Law is about saving lives and marks a major milestone in our campaign to support people in this country with food allergies. This change in the law will give people with food allergies confidence when they are buying pre-packaged food for direct sale, such as sandwiches and salads. Everyone should be able to consume food safely.”
How is your business handling Natasha’s Law? Do you have questions or concerns? Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org