New allergy law set to protect millions

A new law which will require more foods to be labelled with allergen information will protect millions of UK allergy sufferers.

The legislation comes into effect from October 2021 and will require businesses to provide full ingredient and allergen labelling on foods which are pre-packed for direct sale.

NV Legal has welcomed the move but believes there needs to be full transparency across the industry with all ingredient labelling displayed in a recognisable, uniform way as standard.

Victoria Davis, solicitor at NV Legal said: “We recommend that allergen descriptions are displayed in a set industry-wide font and colour that is immediately recognisable.  It is imperative that staff involved in the food industry undergo mandatory, allergen, training with a clear protocol in place for dealing with customers who have allergies.”

Almost two million people in the UK have a food allergy resulting in 10 deaths every year. As there is no cure, those with allergies must avoid products with allergens.

Under current rules, food prepared on the premise in which it is sold is not required to display allergen information on the package.

Existing requirements for pre-packed foods are retained – but under the new legislation there is a requirement to emphasize allergenic ingredients within the ingredients list.

The change in legislation follows the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, the teenager who died after suffering an allergic reaction to a Pret-a-Manger baguette which contained sesame. She had eaten the baguette as allergen information was not shown on the packaging as the baguette she had purchased had been made on site. Had it been produced in an off-site factory, it would have emphasised the sesame ingredient alerting her to the risk.

Natasha’s parents Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse said: “The introduction of Natasha’s Law brings greater transparency about what people are buying and eating, lays down new standards for the food companies, and highlights the battle against the growing epidemic of allergies.

“Natasha was a spirited campaigner for justice and today she is smiling down on us knowing that this law well help ensure others do not suffer in the way our family does, and always will, following the loss of our beloved daughter and sister.

“We would like to thank ministers for their unflinching support in doing the right thing on behalf of all people with allergies.”

The proposed reforms cover labelling requirements for foods that are packed on the same premises from which they are sold – such as a packaged sandwich or salad made by staff earlier in the day and placed on a shelf for purchase.

Currently, these foods are not required to carry labels, and information on allergens can be given in person by the food business if asked by the consumer.

The Food Standards Agency chair, Heather Hancock said: “This is an important and welcome step towards our ambition for the UK to become the best place in the world for people who have food allergies and intolerances. 

“I encourage businesses large and small to work with the Food Standards Agency to get this right. 

“Success will mean more choice and better protection for the millions of people – our families, friends, colleagues and neighbours across the UK – who have food allergies.”

The changes will apply in England, with similar arrangements expected to follow in the devolved nations to provide a UK wide approach to protecting consumers.

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