Allergen labelling law is changing

01 Oct 2021
by Mary Feeney

From today, 1 October 2021, the requirements for prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) food labelling will change in the UK.

This change, welcomed by dietitians, is known as Natasha’s Law and will apply to all foods and drinks which are prepared on site and packed for later sale.

Labels on PPDS foods will include the name of the food and a full ingredients list, with the 14-regulated allergenic ingredients emphasised within the list. The new labelling will help protect consumers by providing potentially life-saving allergen information on the packaging.

The changes support those with food allergies, food intolerances or coeliac disease to find the information they need when purchasing PPDS foods.

This legal change follows the death of 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse who ate a pre-packed baguette containing unlabelled sesame, to which she was allergic.

Which foods or products will be affected by the change?

All PPDS foods will be affected by this legislation change. These are any foods (products or dishes) prepared on the same premises as they are being sold which are put into packaging for later display and sale to consumers.

Examples of PPDS foods include: sandwich, soup, fruit salad packaged and displayed in a chilled cabinet; cakes or pastries packaged and displayed on the counter in a bakery; multipacks of sausages or uncooked or pre-cooked pies boxed up at a butcher's counter; wrapped sandwiches available for consumers to choose themselves at a catered event such as a conference. 

Which foods or products will not be affected by the change?

Laws about provision of allergen information will not change for the following:

  • Pre-packed for indirect sale – these are any foods pre-packed on a separate site from the one where the food will be sold e.g. products made in a factory or at another production site and delivered to another food business where it may be used in catering or directly sold to consumers.
  • Non-pre-packed foods – these are any foods sold loose to another food business or directly to a consumer e.g. fresh bread or pastries displayed on trays in a bakery or café, loose fruit and vegetables at a market stall, cheeses sold at a deli counter. This also includes restaurant meals, drinks, and takeaways where these are prepared or packed following the customer’s request; any foods packed before the customer places their order are considered pre-packed foods and require allergen labelling on the packaging. Information about the 14-regulated allergenic ingredients in non-pre-packed foods must be available in writing or by speaking to staff. Businesses are also required to provide signage to direct consumers to request this information.

Precautionary allergen labelling (PAL) included where there is a risk of allergen cross-contamination i.e. ‘may contain ... or ‘not suitable for someone with ... allergy’ statements are not affected by this legislation change.

What risks should consumers be aware of?

While the changes should make it easier for consumers to find the information they need when buying PPDS foods, some possible risks have been identified.

All businesses are required to check if their products require PPDS labelling and to comply with the new rules, however, some businesses, particularly smaller food businesses may need further time to adapt to the changes. The changes require that businesses that sell PPDS foods have increased awareness of the ingredients used in the foods they sell, particularly of the 14-regulated allergenic ingredients.

There may also be new cross-contamination risks where products which were previously pre-packed are instead displayed unwrapped. It is also important that consumers continue to discuss food ingredients, preparation and cross contamination risks with service staff to ensure foods are suitable for their needs.

Where can I find out more about food hypersensitivity?

Food Allergy and Food Intolerance BDA Food Fact Sheet

Food Allergy and Food Intolerance Testing BDA Food Fact Sheet

Where can I find out more about Natasha’s law?

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