New rules on displaying allergen content on foods come into force today (October 1, 2021).
The Food Information (amendment) Regulations, known informally as Natasha’s Law, stipulate that any business selling foods that are pre-packaged for direct sale (PPDS) must include a full list of ingredients on the product label with allergenic ingredients emphasised.
As Dilys Harris, Senior Trading Standards Officer, Caerphilly County Borough Council, explains: “The law is named after the late Natasha Ednan Laperouse, who sadly died at just 15 years of age after eating a baguette she purchased in July 2016. Unbeknown to Natasha, the bread contained sesame, which she was allergic to. The presence of sesame was not listed on the product.
“Following her tragic death, Natasha’s parents campaigned for increased transparency around UK food labelling requirements.”
To raise awareness of the new rules and to support businesses adapting to the change, the Greater Gwent Food Group, with support from Lancashire County Council Trading Standards, Trading Standards Wales and the Food Standards Agency, has released a range of information resources, including videos, posters and presentations.
But are businesses aware of, and sufficiently prepared for, the change in the law?
Tim Keohane, Senior Trading Standards Officer at Caerphilly County Borough Council, said: “The pandemic has caused lots of problems in our ability to interface with the food trade, but we’re now getting out and speaking to traders, and we’re being contacted a lot by independent, smaller traders for advice. I think larger retailers that have got the resources are ready to go – they’re complying and they have been complying for some months.”
“It is evident that some businesses have brought in the changes in advance of October 1 and others are still making preparations,” said Harris. “In Caerphilly we have recently mail shot advice and information to our businesses, and we are receiving a steady stream of requests for advice and assistance.”
All of the resources are available in English, Welsh, Bengali, Cantonese, Kurdish, Mandarin, Punjabi, Turkish and Urdu, in an effort to reach as many food businesses as possible.
“We have a wonderfully diverse food retail sector in the UK, but that diversity brings with it a lot of businesses where English is not the first language, and we have to try harder to get through to these businesses to help them comply,” said Keohane.
Harris added: “Trading Standards Wales is proud to promote this resource and feels it is very important that allergen legislation is understood throughout the many communities we serve.”
As well as practical advice and information, the resources also include videos that highlight the human cost of food allergies.
“There are two films embedded in the resource; one about Chloe Fitzpatrick, who lives with a severe food allergy day-to-day, and it shows how difficult it is for her, her friends and her family,” said Keohane.
“The other is about the tragic death of the 15-year-old Megan Lee, who died in 2016 after suffering an allergic reaction to an Indian takeaway.
“You can’t fail to be moved by the sadness of Megan’s death, but also her parents’ stoicism and courage to be involved and make sure this doesn’t happen to other people.
“We need to get this message out to everybody so these tragedies don’t happen again,” Keohane added.