The food industry is surrounded by rules and regulations. The health and well being of consumers is rightfully a top priority. This means the way food is stored and prepared is tightly controlled. Food outlets undergo regular food hygiene inspections too.
However, recent events have highlighted what was a glaring omission from food safety standards – labelling ingredients on pre-packaged for direct sale (PPDS) foods. Introduced in late 2021, Natasha’s Law looks to protect people against allergic reactions through better food labelling requirements.
Background To Natasha’s Law
Natasha’s Law is named after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who sadly died from a sesame allergy after eating a baguette with sesame seeds baked into the dough. Despite being a known allergen, the sesame seeds were not listed on the packaging. This tragic loss highlighted a devastating oversight in food safety.
The resulting changes to food labelling practices, Natasha’s Law, came into effect in October 2021. Here’s everything you need to know to make sure you are meeting the latest food safety requirements.
Food Labelling Requirements
Natasha’s Law affects labelling for food that is Prepacked for Direct Sale. The new labelling requirements state that food packaging must clearly state the food’s name and a list of ingredients. Allergens in the ingredients list must also be emphasised. Allergens can be highlighted using bold or italics, for example.
What Is Pre-Packed For Direct Sale (PPDS)?
PPDS food is food which is packaged at the same place it is sold and is packaged before ordering. If food is not prepackaged, it is not PPDS. This can be food without packaging or that is packaged after ordering. Ingredients for these non-prepacked foods do not need to be listed on the packaging.
However, allergen advice for these foods must still be available. This could be provided orally or be listed on the menu, for instance. Natasha’s Law does not cover food that is prepacked by one business and sold by another. This is regulated by other laws and also requires all ingredients are listed with allergens emphasised.
The core goal of Natasha’s Law is to enable consumers to identify allergenic ingredients in food, preventing allergic reactions and consequent harm or death. Whilst a complete list of ingredients will help consumers identify foods they are allergic to, there are only 14 ingredients recognised as allergens by food law. These ingredients are the ones that must be highlighted as stipulated in Natasha’s law.
The 14 food allergens are:
- Cereals containing gluten (e.g. barley & oats)
- Crustaceans (e.g. prawns, crabs & lobsters)
- Molluscs (e.g. mussels & oysters)
- Sulphur Dioxide & Sulphites (if they’re at a concentration of more than ten parts per million)
- Tree Nuts (e.g. almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts)
Who Is Affected By Natasha’s Law
Natasha’s Law affects PPDS food products in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Any food establishment offering PPDS foods must meet the labelling requirements. This could include cafes, pubs and bakers.
How Does Natasha’s Law Work For Schools?
Schools were already subject to food safety standards regarding allergen information. Natasha’s Law extends the protection to food made and packaged by schools and colleges. Common examples of where this could apply to schools and colleges include prepackaged sandwiches and salad boxes, fruit pots, and boxed chips prepacked and left under a hot lamp.
What Are The Rules For Butchers?
For butchers, most of what they sell will likely not be PPDS. For the most part, butchers will sell food that is weighed and packaged after the customer orders it. However, some foods may be pre-packaged. Typically this will include products such as burgers, sausages or marinated food. These products are affected by Natasha’s Law.
How Does Natasha’s Law Affect Caterers?
Live event caterers are also affected in much the same way as the other food industry sectors we have already discussed. They must label PPDS, and food packaged by another business or unpackaged food must also adhere to their respective laws.
However, there is more potential for confusion with event catering. Determining who is the “Final Consumer” is key to deciding which laws apply to you. So, who is the final consumer? Is it the event you are catering for or the attendees?
If the event host is not itself a food business, they can be deemed as the final consumer. In other words, you would be seen as both packing and selling the food products and would be subject to Natasha’s Law. If, however, you are supplying an event that is, in turn, selling the food to attendees as a food business, you are simply the supplier. You will be required to fulfil different legal obligations regarding providing ingredient details.
Does Natasha’s Law Affect Food Sold Online?
Food sold online (or over the phone) is not affected by Natasha’s Law. Selling food in these ways is known as Distance Selling and is subject to its own set of rules and regulations. Businesses providing PPDS food through distance selling must ensure that mandatory allergen advice is provided prior to purchase and at the point of delivery.
Providing this information before a purchase can be made in writing, such as on a website or menu. It can also be provided orally in the case of phone orders. At the point of delivery, allergen information can be given with allergen stickers or an enclosed copy of a menu containing the necessary details.
Are There Exemptions To Natasha’s Law?
There are many food businesses that are not affected by Natasha’s law. This does not necessarily mean they are exempt from providing allergen information. Many of these businesses, such as restaurants, do not deal with PPDS. There are other laws regarding how these businesses must make allergen information available to customers.
Natasha’s law was created to cover a very specific but vital gap in the rules around listing ingredients. Food and business not affected by the changes in laws already have preexisting rules and regulations designed to achieve similar goals.
Natasha’s Law FAQs
When Does Natasha’s Law Come Into Effect?
Natasha’s Law came into effect in October 2021. All PPDS products in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland must include a full ingredients list with emphasised allergens on the packaging.
What Qualifies As “Loose Food”?
Another term for non-prepacked food is “loose food”. Loose food is not affected by Natasha’s Law. Loose food can include meats and cheese (that is not weighed and prepackaged) sold at a deli counter, loose vegetables, and unpackaged bread.
Does Natasha’s Law Include Sweets?
Sweets are treated the same as other foods. If they meet the criteria for PPDS foods, they must adhere to Natasha’s Law. Any bulk food (including confectionary) that you pre-pack for sale by your business is considered pre-packed for direct sale.
Natasha’s law does not cover most confectionery. Any confectionary packaged by a different company should already be labelled appropriately. Sweets such as Pick ‘n’ Mix (including individually wrapped sweets) are considered loose foods if packed after being chosen by the consumer. Confectionary is still subject to other relevant laws on providing allergy information.
Does Natasha’s Law Account For Cross-Contamination?
“May Contain” labelling now applies to PPDS foods. Consumers should be made aware of foods prepared near allergenic ingredients, even if the allergen is not an ingredient in the particular product. Even traces of some allergens can trigger a severe response.
Food Safety Training
The importance of food safety cannot be understated. The way food is stored and prepared is essential to the well-being of consumers. So too is alerting customers to allergenic ingredients, which could pose serious health risks or even be fatal. Although sadly too late, Natasha’s Law introduces much-needed regulation to prevent future food allergy incidents. The new laws on PPDS, combined with the other ingredient listing laws, make it easier for consumers to identify and avoid foods with allergens.
Empowering customers to make safer food choices requires that all those working in the food industry undergo all the necessary food safety training. Getting the right laws in place was a long process, and now it requires a collaborative effort from all areas of the food industry to uphold the new food safety standards.