An Introduction to Natasha’s Law
For those who suffer from allergies, eating whilst out and about can be a minefield. Current allergen laws are ambiguous at best, and that means many food products aren’t labelled correctly. Whilst guidance has been published by the UK government, it isn’t a legal requirement to follow the advice, and as of June 2021, the only requirement for allergen labelling is that warnings must be posted around the shop with no requirements for allergens to be printed on packaging. Most of the time, these in-store warnings have the potential to go unnoticed by the people who need them most.
With over 2 million people in the UK living with severe food allergies (excluding those who are undiagnosed and those who suffer from intolerances), Natasha’s Law is important legislation that is being introduced with the intention of preventing allergy sufferers from falling unwell due to incorrect or inadequate labelling on food products.
What Is Natasha’s Law?
Also known as the UK Food Information Amendment, Natasha’s Law has been introduced to ensure that pre-packaged food – specifically ‘Prepacked Foods for Direct Sale’ or ‘PPDS’ – contains correct and clear labelling to prevent those with severe allergies accidentally eating something that might cause them to suffer an allergic reaction.
Why Was Natasha’s Law Introduced?
Natasha’s Law was passed through government after strong campaigning from the parents of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, a 15-year-old girl who sadly died after eating a baguette that contained sesame, something she was severely allergic to.
Natasha had lived with allergies for her entire life but died after eating a baguette that she had purchased from Pret A Manger in an airport. She was reassured by the lack of labelling on the packaging of the baguette and therefore safely assumed that there were no major allergens in the ingredients list, but it was later discovered the food contained sesame.
Her death could have been prevented with correct food labelling, and that’s why her parents, Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, have been fighting for significant change to current laws surrounding allergen advice on food packaging.
The UK government introduced Natasha’s Law in 2019 to protect other allergy sufferers from falling victim to poor labelling on the food they purchase.
What Does Natasha’s Law Cover?
The UK Food Information Amendment covers the sale of foods that are ‘Prepacked for Direct Sale’ – food that is packed on the same premises from which it’s sold.
The law does not apply to food that is made to order or served in packaging that is open and able to be altered, such as cardboard trays or Styrofoam boxes.
When Is Natasha’s Law Coming Into Effect?
Natasha’s Law will come into effect in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland from 1st October 2021 with similar rules expected to follow in Scotland, but it is important to start preparing as soon as possible. Ensure you have all necessary equipment and that staff are adequately trained well ahead of time, and consider undertaking a trial run to allow any necessary changes before the law has officially come into force.
What Information Is Mandatory?
As of 1st October 2021, Natasha’s Law means it is a legal requirement for all PPDS food to have clear labelling on the packaging. The label must contain the name of the item and a full list of the ingredients, with allergens emphasised in bold, italics, or a different colour font.
How Many Food Allergens Are There And What Are They?
There are 14 major food allergens that are required to be listed according to the law. These are:
- Cereals containing gluten (such as barley and oats)
- Crustaceans (such as prawns, crabs, and lobsters)
- Molluscs (such as mussels and oysters)
- Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (at a concentration of more than ten parts per million)
- Tree nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts)
These must also be listed if the allergens are present in any additives, processing aids, or any other substances that help to make the final product.
What Do I Need To Do To Comply With Natasha’s Law?
For full compliance with Natasha’s law, ensure that the packaging of all PPDS food clearly states:
- The name of the food product
- A full list of the ingredients with allergens emphasised in bold, italics, or a different colour
The information must be clear and legible, and not covered by any folds or creases. It must also be accessible for those with visual impairments. The ingredients list must be printed in a font with:
- An x-height with a minimum of 1.2mm
- If the surface area of the label is less than 80cm2, a minimum x-height of 0.9mm
It’s also important to note that allergen information must be available at every point in the supply chain.
Labels should be added to the outer packaging before the food product is displayed.
Software such as PriceTag and its additional templates can help you create and manage ingredient lists for all of your products. With our label printer bundle, specifically designed for compliance with Natasha’s Law regulations, you can design and print your allergen labelling quickly and easily. We also offer UK based support if you run into any trouble.
What Happens In The Event Of Non-Compliance?
Compliance with Natasha’s Law will be monitored during visits from environmental health officers, alongside their current duties. Where necessary, officers will issue enforcement and change orders and escalate if required.
Proven breaches of the law could lead to your business facing legal action, and you may suffer from reputational damage as experienced by Pret A Manger.
5 Ways to Prepare for Natasha’s Law
As of 1st October 2021, there are new food labelling requirements coming into force in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. This is called Natasha’s Law.
It requires all businesses that sell ‘Pre-Packed Foods for Direct Sale’ to feature visible, accessible allergen labelling on the packaging of the items.
Before the law (also known as the UK Food Information Amendment) comes into force, there are 5 things should do to ensure you’re meeting the legal requirements. Failure to do so may result in monetary penalties and reputational damage.
1. Check if your food products are classed as ‘Pre-Packed for Direct Sale’
The law only covers food items that are considered ‘Pre-Packed for Direct Sale’. This means products that are packed on the same premises from which it is later sold. There is currently no specific guidance for what foods fall under the PPDS label, but the Natasha’s Law legislation gives the following advice to consider:
- Items of food that are presented to consumers in packaging that is either wholly or partially enclosed in a way that makes it impossible to alter the food without visibly opening or changing the packaging
- Food products that are packaged before the consumer orders it
- Food that is packaged in the same place as it is later sold, including items packaged by a business on the same site it is sold or sold from temporary or moveable premises such as food trucks
Natasha’s Law labelling guidance does not apply to food that is made to order or served in open packaging, such as cardboard trays or Styrofoam boxes.
To prepare for the introduction of Natasha’s Law throughout the UK, you should consider whether the products you sell are considered to be PPDS. Each item must be considered on a case-by-case basis, and if you’re not sure, it may be best to provide allergen labelling anyway.
2. Invest in a compliant solution
If you sell PPDS, you need to ensure that you are following the correct guidelines. According to Natasha’s Law, you must ensure the following:
- All PPDS food products must clearly state the name of the product, along with a full list of ingredients with allergens emphasised in bold, italics, or a different colour
- The information is clear and legible, and not impaired by any folds or creases
- That the information is accessible for those with visual impairments
- The information must be printed in a font with an x-height of at least 1.2mm, or if the surface area of the label is less than 80cm2, a minimum x-height of 0.9mm
- Allergen information is available from every point in the supply chain
- Labels are added to the outer packaging of the product before it is displayed
To do so, you must have the correct equipment, including hardware and software. We have put together a convenient, easy to use food labelling bundle that contains everything you need to ensure your products are compliant with Natasha’s Law requirements.
It comes with:
- The Brother VC-500W wireless colour label printer (featuring Zero Ink Technology)
- PriceTag software
- A range of ready-to-use label designs, built for Natasha’s Law compliance by our experts
- 5m continuous white label roll (50mm width)
- 2m cleaning roll cassette (50mm width)
- 1 year of free technical support (worth £150)
This bundle is perfect for creating disposable labels for the outside of your packaging. The software allows you to send your ingredients labels to print with the touch of a button, and you don’t need to waste time replacing ink cartridges due to the Brother VC-500W’s Zero Ink Technology feature.
3. Prepare your ingredient lists
It’s likely that you sell several different products, some of which may be seasonal. To prevent any last-minute stress, sit down ahead of time to gather the list of ingredients for each product. It’s also important that you contact your suppliers, as you must also be able to provide the ingredients for certain elements of your food, such as bread.
Labelling software can be used to easily and efficiently create and store multiple ingredients lists for your products, so they’re ready to print at the click of a button. You’ll also be able to store, view and print the ingredients labels for your seasonal products, to save you the trouble of trying to remember the details from the year before.
Our exclusive food labelling printer bundle is specifically designed to ensure you can comply with Natasha’s Law requirements. Our technical support and bureau team have created helpful templates that we can set up in your software included in the bundle for easy label printing. Simply choose up to 10 allergens that feature in your ingredients list from the dropdown menu, and the font will automatically format in bold.
4. Train your staff
Your staff should be fully aware of Natasha’s Law and all the steps you need to take to comply, as they will likely be involved at some point in the process. Make sure they know what the new law will apply to and how your business must adapt for compliance, and let them know of the steps you’re taking – such as any new software or printers – that you will be using.
You may also choose to appoint a member of your staff as a ‘champion’ to uphold Natasha’s Law allergen requirements. This means that they are responsible for inputting any information into the software and printing the labels to stick on food packaging. They can also make customers aware of the changes, which leads to reassurance and trust.
Provide ongoing training to your staff to ensure that compliance never slips and your customers can always feel safe.
5. Test it out
Before the law comes into effect on 1st October 2021, ensure you have all the correct steps in place for compliance and start a trial period. Evaluate and audit each step in the process, including ingredient checks from suppliers, having ingredient lists for all of your PPDS products, and proper label printing. You should also ensure that the processes your staff follow are completely up to date.
If you have a chain of stores, pick one location to trial your compliance. It will allow you to see any issues or areas of improvement ahead of time.
This trial period will make it easier when it comes to launching your Natasha’s Law policies in October.