UK introduces Natasha’s Law to protect people with food allergies

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

A new law will enforce all pre-packed sandwiches sold in England and Northern Ireland to contain a full list of ingredients. Pic: ©GettyImages/johnnyscriv
A new law will enforce all pre-packed sandwiches sold in England and Northern Ireland to contain a full list of ingredients. Pic: ©GettyImages/johnnyscriv

Related tags: Defra, Food allergies, Fsa, Pret a Manger

The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has ratified a new law following the well-publicized death of a teenager from anaphylactic shock from an undeclared ingredient on a Pret a Manger baguette.

Natasha’s Law – named after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died in 2016 after having an allergic reaction – will enforce food businesses to be fully transparent regarding ingredients labeling on pre-packaged food.

The artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette Natasha bought from Pret a Manger contained sesame seeds, which an investigation concluded had not been adequately listed on the packet.

The 15-year-old died of anaphylaxis after collapsing on board a flight between London and Nice.

Pret a Manger has since introduced full ingredient labeling to all its products that are freshly made in its shop kitchens.

Change of law

Currently, ready-to-go food prepared on the premises is not required to display allergen information on the package.

The new legislation will tighten the rules by requiring pre-packed foods – such as a packaged sandwich or salad made by inhouse staff and placed on a shelf for purchase – to carry a full list of ingredients.

It will apply to businesses in England and Northern Ireland and is set to come into force by the summer of 2021.

Defra has given companies two years to adapt to the change.

“Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse [Natasha’s parents] have been an inspiration in their drive to protect food allergy sufferers and deliver Natasha’s Law,”​ said environment secretary Michael Gove.

“These changes will make food labels clear and consistent, and give the country’s two million food allergy sufferers confidence in making safe food choices.”

The introduction of Natasha’s Law follows a consultation in January proposing four options, including full ingredient list labeling; allergen-only labeling; ‘ask the staff’ labels on products; and promoting best practice to businesses.

The consultation received overwhelming support from consumers for full ingredients labeling, with more than 70% backing this option.

Allergy research

Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse said the introduction of the law is a ‘fitting legacy’ to their daughter.

“We are absolutely delighted that the Secretary of State has announced the Government’s decision to go ahead with full allergen and ingredient labeling,”​ they said.

“We would personally like to thank Michael Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock for their unflinching support in doing the right thing on behalf of all people with allergies, and their support in setting up the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, which we are launching today in Natasha’s memory.”

Best practice

Several of the UK’s food agencies have welcomed the move.

Chair of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) Heather Hancock said, “We want the UK to become the best place in the world for people living with food hypersensitivities.

“The impact of food allergy and intolerance on quality of life can be as great or even greater than almost all other foodborne diseases. Whilst it’s impossible to eliminate the risks entirely, we believe this change will mean better protection for allergic consumers.”

The FSA will continue to provide food businesses with guidance on allergens. Likewise, the agency’s ‘Easy to Ask’ campaign works to empower consumers to ask food businesses about allergens when eating out so they can make safe food choices.

Safe food choices

“This move towards full ingredient labelling for pre-packed direct sale food will improve the lives of the allergic customer and it is warmly welcomed here at Allergy UK,” said Carla Jones, Allergy UK’s CEO.

“Food businesses across the country have already taken steps to improve food labeling and outlets are being urged to do all they can ahead of the implementation date to help consumers make safe food choices.”

The Real Bread Campaign coordinator Chris Young has also saluted the move, but says it falls short of the campaign’s decade-long lobby for the full ingredient labeling of all​ loaves.

“We welcome this step in the right direction but we believe that the government are still dragging their collective feet in supporting people’s right to be able to make fully-informed choices about the loaves and sandwiches they buy,” ​said Young.

“It’s infuriating that they only seem to take any action at all when forced by EU regulation or a tragedy.”

He noted that, by applying to all foods, the new law extends further than the Real Bread Campaign’s call for full ingredient listing for bread and bread products.

However, he contends it does not cover the labeling of unwrapped breads, as well as the food additives deemed to be ‘processing’ aids and marketing terms, such as freshly baked, wholegrain or sourdough.

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