Natasha’s law: Get ready for new UK labelling provisions from 1 October 2021
31 August 2021
From 1 October 2021, food business operators selling pre-packed food for direct sale must include the food's name and a full ingredients list on the packaging with allergens emphasised on the pack.
What is Natasha's Law?
Following a tragic allergy incident in 2016, the parents of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse lobbied hard for a change in the current law – and these new regulations are a result of this. These labelling changes are a significant change from the base EU regulations that gave broad exemptions to non-prepacked food, designed to reduce the burden on smaller businesses. The rules will apply in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (in England the rules are implemented by the Food Information (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2019).
When does Natasha's Law apply?
If you are packaging food at the same location it is offered or sold to consumers, and the food is in the packaging before it is ordered or selected, then these rules are likely to apply. However, there are some exceptions – including takeaway food sold by means of distance selling – which still has to comply with allergen regulations but in a slightly different way.
How will Natasha's Law affect food business operators?
As with all new regulations we expect to see some teething problems. Particularly for smaller businesses who must decide whether to 'pack to order' (also exempt from the labelling requirement – though again not exempt from the allergen rules), or continue to 'pre pack for direct sale'. If you asked your average small bakery owner what a 'prescribed name' or 'compound ingredient exemption' was, you might get a blank stare. However, they will need to be aware of both from 1 October 2021 if they are packaging sandwiches in advance of sale.
The larger food-to-go businesses will likely have technical and regulatory teams in place to help facilitate these changes, though the challenges of implementing these rules should not be underestimated. For standard pre-packed foods, recipes are relatively static (at least as much as possible with the current supply chain challenges), this means labels are printed in advance in bulk. In this case small changes to formulas or nutrition information are often tolerated, but the allergen list is sacred – any changes to the formula which affect allergens are a safety issue and a likely product recall if the label is incorrect. Food-to-go menus can be a lot more fluid, and the nature of the business (food prepared daily in-house) sometimes introduces an inherent cross-contamination risk.
Preparing for Natasha's Law
Training for both larger and smaller businesses on the changes will be very important – there are some excellent resources available on the Food Standards Agency website. However, working through real-life examples, specific questions and challenges to individual businesses is key to raising awareness and ensuring compliance with the new rules.
Need support on Natasha's Law? Get in touch with the team at [email protected]