Amendment on allergen labelling takes effect in UK as many food businesses play catchup

UK – UK Food Information Amendment, popularly known as Natasha’s Law has taken effect in the United Kingdom promising an increased level of protection for many consumers who are allergic to certain foods. 

Under the new law, food businesses will be required to provide full ingredient lists and allergen labeling on all food that is pre-packaged for direct sale.  

The 14 allergens that must be declared by law when used as ingredients are: 1. Celery 2. Cereals containing gluten 3. Crustaceans 4. Eggs 5. Fish 6. Lupin 7. Milk 8. Molluscs 9. Mustard 10. Nuts 11. Peanuts 12. Sesame seeds 13. Soya 14. Sulphur dioxide. 

This amendment was brought about thanks to the actions of a lobbying group lead by the parents of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, the teenager who died after suffering an allergic reaction to an undeclared ingredient in a prepacked meal. 

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Doubt cast over industry preparedness 

Despite its good intentions, the law is expected to add more compliance costs to food businesses that have had to deal with a raft of new legislation because of the pandemic. 

These businesses also faced huge losses during periods of closure and had to make significant changes to the way they operate to cope with changing customer habits. 

According to a study by the GS1 UK, 67% of small and medium-sized food businesses believed there should be more financial support from the government to help them with the transition.    

Apart from costs, the other concern by many food industry experts is the preparedness of many small businesses in transitioning to the new law. 

According to research by GS1 UK, four in 10 businesses had never heard of Natasha’s Law, while eight in 10 said they were unprepared for the new food regulations 

Just over half of small and medium sized businesses said they had taken steps to be in a good position ahead of the new law.  

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Only 39% said they have provided training on types of allergens and more than one in five said that they are awaiting further training and guidance. 

This therefore casts doubt about the effectiveness of the new law in preventing consumers from continuous exposure to allergens. 

Food Safety experts across the UK are however positive that this is a step towards the right direction and in the long term, the benefits of the new law will be reaped to the benefit of consumers.  

 “This is a huge step in helping improve the quality of life for around 2m people living with food allergies in this country,” said Emily Miles, UK Food Safety Agency CEO.  

“If these changes drive down the number of hospital admissions caused by food allergies, which has increased threefold over the past 20 years, and prevent further tragic deaths such as Natasha’s, that can only be a positive thing.” 

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