Natasha’s Law takes effect, but concerns raised

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Natasha's Law comes into effect from today (1 October)
Natasha's Law comes into effect from today (1 October)

Related tags allergens

Uncertainty surrounded the launch of Natasha’s Law, as food businesses reported how unprepared they were for the new regulations that come in to force today 1 October).

Natasha’s law – also known as the UK Food Information Amendment –will see food businesses required to provide full ingredient lists and allergen labelling on all food that is pre-packaged for direct sale

According to research by GS1 UK, four in 10 businesses had never heard of Natasha’s Law, while eight in 10 said they were unprepared for the new food regulations – this was in spite of 90%​ respondents who knew about the change in regulations saying they had received plenty of information about it.

Henry Dimbleby MBE, author of the National Food Strategy said: “Natasha’s Law represents a hugely positive, yet complex transformation for the food sector – one fraught with risk.

“It is worrying that the awareness of the changes is inconsistent, but not particularly surprising after everything the sector has had thrown at it over the last 18 months.”

Industry preparedness

Just over half of small and medium sized businesses said they had taken steps to be in a good position ahead of the new law. Only 39% said they have provided training on types of allergens and more than one in five said that they are awaiting further training and guidance.

Getting ready for new legislation takes time and money and 67% believed there should be more financial support from the government to help businesses with the transition.  

Arvind Thandi, Food Hypersensitivity Team leader at Food Standards Agency addressed these concerns, but was confident of the food industry’s ability to adapt to the new regulations.

We recognise that businesses had a really tough time over the past 18 months. We’ve done so much work to help them prepare – particularly over the past year – and we’ve really been heartened by how many businesses and industry bodies have engaged with us over that time, because they want to get this right,”​ said Thandi.

“We think it’s natural that people are going to feel anxious and worried ahead of such a significant change, but we know that about 80% of businesses that produce this form of food already carried out allergen labelling in some form and 60% performed ingredients labelling. We saw this as a good indication of their ability to adapt to this and prepare for a full roll out.”

Flow of data

However, no matter how much businesses prepare, issues surrounding the flow of data on ingredients and allergens remain a concern for GS1 UK.

Chris Tyas, chair of GS1 UK, said: “One of the biggest concerns surrounding Natasha’s law is whether businesses will be able to quickly and accurately get up to date allergen information – especially smaller businesses whose ingredients may change daily. Yet the research shows that these small businesses are the least prepared.

“It is vital that the whole food supply chain has the ability to capture and access the full range of allergen data to implement the requirements of Natasha’s law. To comply successfully we believe the continued digitalisation of the supply chain is much needed.”

The new law has placed an onus on suppliers to provide their customers with detailed information on the ingredients in their products.

Sam Roberts of digital platforms provider Mpro5 recognised that small businesses will feel the most pressure of these new regulations coming into effect.

Compliance under heavy scruitiny

“For many, particularly smaller companies, vendors, and producers, it will introduce stringent and precise new regulations, and compliance will be heavily scrutinised,”​ said Roberts.

“However, not only is it ultimately for a worthy cause, but with the right tools, processes, and training, complying with these new demands can be made infinitely easier.”

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute – with support from the Food Standards Agency – launched a new campaign, Be Allergy Aware,​ in tandem with the new law to help provide resources for food businesses to ensure they are compliant.

It urged businesses to “double-check, never guess”​ whether the food they sell contains ingredients that may be allergens, and whether their customers have any food allergies or intolerances.

Natasha’s Law was named for teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died after eating a pre-packaged baguette which at the time did not require ingredients labelling.

Improve quality of life

FSA chief executive Emily Miles said: “This is a huge step in helping improve the quality of life for around 2m people living with food allergies in this country.

“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.”

The implementation of Natasha’s Law comes as we countdown to this year’s Food Safety Briefing: Weak Links in the Chain​ on 6 October 2021.

This free, 90 minute webinar – sponsored by rssl and supported by Hillbrush and Munters – will cover emerging global supply chain risks, how robust your audit and HACCP management is the latest developments in allergen management and detection. 

Speakers scheduled for the 2021 event include FSA chief information officer Diane Barlow, Reading Specific Services food safety and quality consultant Barbara Hirst, independent food safety consultant Alec Kyriakides and Consumer Goods Forum senior technical manager for its Global Food Safety Initiative Marie-Claude Quentin.

Registrants will be able to submit their questions to the panellists and have them answered in a live question and answer session directly after the presentations.

Natasha's Law allergens

The 14 allergens that must be declared by law when used as ingredients are:

1. Celery

2. Cereals containing gluten

3. Crustaceans

4. Eggs

5. Fish

6. Lupin

7. Milk

8. Molluscs

9. Mustard

10. Nuts

11. Peanuts

12. Sesame seeds

13. Soya

14. Sulphur dioxide

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