The food industry is subject to some of the strictest health and safety regulations in the country. If you work with food, you’ll know the importance of protecting not only your staff, but the general public as well.
This became all too apparent in 2016 with the death of 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse. The teenager suffered a severe allergic reaction after eating a baguette which contained sesame seeds. Despite these being a common allergen, the packaging gave no warning of their presence. This was because the law at the time did not require businesses to display allergen information on food that had been prepared and packaged on the premises.
Natasha’s death sparked public outrage and widespread calls to tighten packaging regulations on PPDS (Prepacked for Direct Sale) food. After a hard-fought campaign by her parents with the support of the media, the government introduced new legislation to close the loophole that had allowed Natasha’s death.
Dubbed “Natasha’s Law”, this new legislation came into effect across the UK on 1st October 2021. If you work in the food industry, you will already be aware of these changes. However, it’s still worth going over some of the finer points.
What does Natasha’s Law cover?
Natasha’s Law applies to any food that is made in advance and packaged on site before it is purchased by the customer. Food that falls into this category must display a full list of ingredients. This should be clearly marked with the word “Ingredients” and a description of the food. If the list contains any of the 14 major allergens, they should be emphasised with bold type or capital letters.
Most examples of PPDS food are fairly obvious, but some are easier to miss. The category includes:
- Pre-prepared sandwiches and baked goods
- Salads and pasta pots prepared and sold at a deli counter
- Sausages and burgers prepared and packaged at a butcher’s shop
- Fast food that is packed in advance, e.g. burgers kept under a heat lamp
- Free samples handed out in packaging
- Meals that are prepared and packaged in care homes, hospitals and schools
What about takeaways and restaurants?
The law does not cover food that is made to order, or food that is ordered online or over the phone. However, these businesses must still provide allergen information if the customer requests it. In the case of takeaways, this must be available both at the point of purchase and the point of delivery.
Dine-in restaurants are also unaffected by these changes. Restaurants do not have to provide allergen information on their menus, but many choose to do so as a way to protect their customers. Whether it is listed on the menu or not, allergen information must still be available on request.
How can I make sure I comply with Natasha’s Law?
We’re sure you want to do everything you can to keep your customers safe. But with the pandemic still disrupting the catering industry, implementing a major change such as Natasha’s Law may be challenging. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to simplify the process:
- Make sure you have updated your risk assessment to include allergen risks, especially in PPDS food.
- Respond quickly to any ingredient changes. If you alter a recipe, be sure to explicitly state this on the packaging.
- Keep in touch with your suppliers and be sure that they notify you immediately of any changes to their products.
- Look out for products such as premade sauces that do not come with a full breakdown of ingredients. If this happens, contact the supplier for clarification.
- Consider investing in a label printer. This can be linked to a database of recipes, removing the risk of human error from the labelling process.
As well as keeping track of changes, it is also important to give your staff a solid grounding in food safety. We provide a range of accredited food safety courses through our online platform, including a specific course on allergy awareness. If you have any questions about labelling guidelines, or any other aspect of food safety, don’t hesitate to get in touch.