Natasha’s Law in NI If you prepare fresh food on site – you must comply
Natasha’s Law comes into effect from October 2021, and applies to both England and Northern Ireland. The new law means that all food companies that prepare fresh food on site will have to clearly show the entire ingredient list of all of the products on sale to customers.
The legislation is intended to provide further protection for allergy sufferers, and give them confidence in the food they purchase. The new law requires more types of food to have potentially life-saving allergen information on the label.
The legislation is commonly referred to as ‘Natasha’s Law’ following the tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse. The young woman died after suffering an in-flight allergic reaction to sesame seeds contained in a filled baguette, which she bought at an airport. At the time, full ingredient labelling, including allergens, was not required by law.
The revised legislation applies to products designated as ‘pre-packed for direct sale’ (PPDS) – food packaged at the same place it is offered for sale to consumers which includes pre-wrapped products kept behind a counter. From 1 October 2021 all PPDS food will need to have a label showing the name and quantity of the food and the full ingredient list. The label must have any of the 14 declarable allergens – celery, cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, milk, lupin, molluscs, mustard, sesame, peanuts, soybeans, sulphur dioxide and sulphites, and nuts – clearly emphasised (for example in bold and underlined).
Pies, bakes and sausage rolls that have been baked and are then wrapped before being placed into a hot cabinet are classed as PPDS, along with sandwiches and wraps.
PPDS includes food packaged by the same business and sold at a temporary or mobile site, such as a food truck or market stall, as well as food that is packaged in the same place and then offered at different units within one building, such as an airport, hospital, or shopping centre.
If a product is pre-packed and fully or partly enclosed by packaging, it cannot be altered without opening or changing the packaging, or is ready for final sale to the consumer, then again, it is classed as PPDS.
Information on the labels must be accurate, clear, not misleading in any way, and must be applied consistently across the product range to avoid any confusion. Any food that is not in packaging when it is ordered, or is loose and then packaged after being ordered, is NOT subject to Natasha’s Law.
As a result, consumers with a food allergy or intolerance will have all the information required to make a safe choice when buying PPDS food, particularly at checkouts, self-service order points or where there is no interaction with staff.
The requirements of Natasha’s Law are undoubtedly going to present convenience food retailers and foodservice operators with a major challenge.
Any business operating an in-store bakery and/or food to go operation must comply. Retailers must ensure that they are aware of what they are required to do. However, specially developed labels that facilitate the prominent display of any ingredients contained within products designated as PPDS will ensure compliance.
The harsh reality is that a severe allergic reaction can be fatal, or make a customer seriously ill. Retailers could also face financial and reputational damage for failing to comply with allergen information requirements. Local authorities enforce allergen information regulations and a retailer’s failure to comply could result in the authority taking action against them. A person convicted of an allergen offence will be liable to an unlimited fine decided by a Magistrate on a case-by case basis.
The amendments to the legislation – known now as Natasha’s Law – were introduced by Michael Gove, and to both England and Northern Ireland from 1st October 2021.