One month on from Natasha’s Law, where are we now?

01 November 2021, 09:40 AM
  • New ingredient and allergen labelling rules came into effect in October, but food and drink businesses are still struggling to adapt to the changes
One month on from Natasha’s Law, where are we now?

Last month, Natasha’s Law was brought into force, requiring businesses to provide full ingredients lists and allergen information on pre-packaged food products following the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who suffered a fatal allergic reaction.

While independent businesses are keen to prevent illnesses among their customers, the rules came at a challenging time, even for those with significant resources. “Although we have known Natasha’s Law has been approaching for a while now, the time of implementation has coincided with a perfect storm of external challenges,” said Joleen Cunningham, group business systems manager at hospitality business CH&CO.

“We are all aware of the resource crisis within our sector, particularly with chefs, and also the supply chain challenges, driver shortages and not to mention the continuing global pandemic. This has all contributed to making the obtaining of product data more challenging.” The business has partnered with the platform zupaBiz, which automates allergens and nutritional data through the supply chain, to ease the transition. “Our suppliers and tech partners have provided documentation and webinars to support on delivering Natasha’s Law for the back end. All of the resources to implement this legislation were available and clear, although operationally, delivering the process had its challenges as described above.”

Making changes

Under Natasha’s Law, food businesses are required to clearly label all food packed and produced on their premises, and businesses could face fines of up to £5,000 if they’re found not to comply with the rules. But an investigation by i News revealed that sandwich shops, cafés and bakeries across the UK had not implemented the changes.

Larger foodservice operators have been able to introduce bespoke systems. Michael Reilly, group director of health and safety at WSH, which owns foodservice business BaxterStorey, introduced software requiring suppliers to input details of their ingredients, which are then included in a database used to create menus to ensure every allergen is listed and can be updated.

But Natasha’s Law is about more than labels, he told Speciality Food. “It’s important that labelling is part of a much broader approach to allergens. Some of our locations can utilise thousands of different ingredients daily. The farm to fork journey that leads to the final product and the conditions in which it is made, including the layout, design and construction of the premises is often outside of our control as caterers. It is for these reasons that we continue to engage our customers not to rely solely on labelling,” Michael said.

Where to begin?

While larger organisations are better able to implement training and systems changes to cater to the new rules, smaller businesses with fewer resources have faced a challenging prospect. Joleen said any business that is struggling with the new rules should start as simply as possible. “Standardise your products and reduce ranges where possible until you are confident with the process operationally. Work with your suppliers to ensure you have all of the product data and automate the data flows if you have the capacity to do so,” she said. “The data is key to making this work, ensuring you have the correct information from source eases the process end to end.”

Kate Thompson, director at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), also stressed the importance of data. “Linking up a database of food products and ingredients to the way you print labels will help make sure that the correct information is transferred easily. The database could record your products, recipes and ingredients, making it easy to track what’s being used and where.”

“It’s also important to implement a clear, concise engagement and training plan with good training resources to support the operations teams delivering the labelling,” Joleen added. “Operational engagement on delivering the labelling is essential. Even with compliant labels back of house, you need to ensure they remain compliant in line with service type, packaging and client requirements.” 

Checking in with supply chain partners, implementing staff training and looking into tech solutions can offer solutions for smaller businesses. Action must be taken on Natasha’s Law, so it is important that your business is compliant with the new rules. Learn more here.

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