On the 25th June 2019, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs announced the introduction of a new law relating to the labelling of pre-packaged food, which is being referred to as 'Natasha's Law'.
The law, set to come into force in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the summer of 2021, has been developed as a result of the death of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died following an allergic reaction to a Pret a Manger baguette in 2016. The baguette did not state on the label that it contained sesame, to which Natasha was severely allergic.
The current legislation surrounding the labelling of allergens on food prepared on the premises on which it is sold does not require the allergen information to be produced in writing on the package. A sign must, however, be displayed encouraging the consumer to ask about allergens. 'Natasha's Law' will make it easier for the consumer to access allergen information on pre-packaged products, as such food will be required to display a full ingredient list, not just a list of allergens.
For businesses who prepare pre-packaged food on site, this will mean that they must adhere to the more onerous task of labelling each ingredient for every pre-packaged product that they make and sell on their premises. Therefore, particularly for smaller retailers, the time and expense of providing this increased labelling must be borne in mind. However, the new law will also remove much of the uncertainty around this area to the benefit of retailers as well as consumers.
Retailers will have some time to adjust to the new legislation before it comes into force in 2021, but given the health benefits and public demand for greater clarity in this area (over 70% of consumers that responded to the Government's consultation backed the option of mandating full ingredients labelling) it would not be surprising for retailers to make the necessary changes sooner than required.
Co-authored by Rachel Bowley