It’s official: Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced a plan to implement “Natasha’s Law.” The law will offer additional protections to UK food allergy sufferers. If your business sells food products within the UK, these new regulations could affect your business and your labelling procedures. So, here’s a quick primer on the law and what companies need to do to ensure compliance.
What is Natasha’s Law?
In 2016, Natasha Ednan-Laperouse purchased an artichoke, olive, and tapenade baguette from an airport Pret A Manger sandwich shop to eat on her flight to Nice for a much-anticipated vacation.
That vacation never happened. The sandwich contained sesame, which she was allergic to. However, it wasn’t listed on the label. She went into anaphylactic shock in midair and died in a French hospital.
Sesame is a reasonably common allergen, so why wasn’t it listed? The answer is simple: it wasn’t required to be since the sandwich was made fresh in the store.
According to the BBC, “The coroner looking into her death said Natasha had been “reassured” by the lack of specific allergen information on the packaging.”
After their daughter’s death, Natasha’s parents began petitioning for changes to the current labelling system. In a public comment on the new law, they said, “helping save other allergy sufferers and their families from the enduring agony that we will always bear is a fitting legacy for her life”.
Other food allergy advocates are also thrilled with the new regulations. For example, Allergy UK commented: “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.”
How “Natasha’s Law” Will Affect UK Food Packaging and Labelling
Food allergy suffers, and the organisations that represent them are happy. Businesses, however, naturally have some concerns about compliance. While new regulations might seem burdensome, protecting customers is paramount. Better labelling also protects companies from lawsuits, so it’s a win-win in the long term.
Natasha’s Law: What’s Changing
According to the BBC, previous UK law only required allergy labelling on prepackaged food. This is the minimum required under EU regulations:
“Sesame is one of the 14 allergens that consumers must be made aware of when it is used as an ingredient in food products, according to EU Regulations. However, the EU rules say individual member states are responsible for deciding on how information about non pre-packaged food is provided to the customer. The UK’s Food Regulations 2014 allow freshly handmade, non pre-packaged food to not be individually labelled.”
For example, under current law, a supermarket sandwich has to list every ingredient and include allergy labelling. However, a prepackaged sandwich made on-site does not; all that’s required is a sign advising customers to ask about allergens.
It’s easy to see how consumers could get confused. In both cases, the food is made ahead of time. In both cases, the products are sold as a quick, grab-and-go option, and when you’re in a hurry, it’s easy to miss a separate sign inviting you to ask the staff about potential allergens.
Under Natasha’s Law, which affects the UK and Northern Ireland, that will change. Pre-packaged food made on site by staff will be treated the same as food products made off-site. That means all ingredients listed on the label and allergy warnings as appropriate. The new rules should simplify the situation for consumers. As long as the sandwich isn’t being made fresh in front of you, the label should show all of the ingredients.
When will Natasha’s Law take effect?
There is a two-year implementation period, and so the law won’t be in force until 2021. However, the sooner your business complies with these changes, the better. If something happens to one of your customers, merely complying with the letter of the law won’t save you from bad publicity. Sadly, Natasha, her family and Pret a Manger found that out the hard way.
How to Ensure Food Labels Stay Compliant Across Borders
Businesses must ensure that their packaging and labelling complies with local regulations wherever their products are sold. However, managing the complexities of compliance in different markets can be challenging, especially when each country speaks a different language.
That’s why a language services provider with a specialist food packaging translation service can be a real asset to your business. At K International, we’ve been partnering with retailers to offer just such a solution for more than five years. We provide compliant translations of everything from marketing materials to packaging to ingredients lists. Additionally, our guaranteed label check service ensures your labels adhere to legal requirements in all of your target regions. At the same time, our quality control procedures are second to none, even when fast turnaround is required.