Is your business ready for Natasha’s Law?

Natasha’s Law is set to shake up the entire food and catering sectors – businesses need to be prepared

From 1 October 2021, the UK Food Information Amendment – also known as Natasha’s Law – will require businesses to provide full ingredient lists and allergen labelling on all food that is prepackaged for direct sale (PPDS). In other words, food that is packaged on the same premises where it is offered or sold to customers. The time is now to ensure you are compliant according to mpro5, the Digital transformation solution providers.   

The new legislation is the result of a campaign led by the parents of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse. Natasha tragically died after suffering an allergic reaction to an undeclared ingredient in a prepacked baguette. The inquest into her death identified a major loophole in the food labelling rules, which meant that businesses making and selling fresh products prepacked on their premises didn’t have to provide allergen information on the packaging.   

Under the new regulations, these types of PPDS items must clearly display the name of the food and a full ingredients list ordered by weight – 14 major allergens must also be emphasised on the label.  

Sam Roberts, Sector Director at mpro5, stated: “Following the inquest, the government announced an overhaul of the labelling laws to better protect the estimated two million people who suffer from food allergies. The move will affect a variety of businesses – from sandwich shops and cafes to school catering companies and major supermarket chains.  

“If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to establish good relationships with your suppliers. You’ll need them to provide detailed ingredient information and notify you promptly of any changes, as even the slightest tweak to an ingredient could have huge implications.”

On a practical level, consider how you will produce the necessary food labels. Handwritten labels aren’t exactly ideal, so you’ll need to think about the type of printer and labels you require, which of course depends on the food being offered and the size of your operation. Furthermore, staff training is also incredibly important. Employees need to know what to do every time a new item is added to the menu or there’s a change to a recipe.  

But while these are good starting points, they’re not enough. Manually checking ingredients across every PPDS item isn’t practical, especially where larger chains are concerned, and this is where technology can be a vital tool.    

If you can afford it, the most effective way to maintain accurate ingredient and allergen information is with the help of specialist software. There are plenty of digital food management and labelling solutions on the market, and many of these will automatically update nutritional and allergen details across your various systems.  

You may also want to consider using a digital management platform, like mpro5, to confirm that staff are following the correct protocols. For instance, you can request that employees complete a digital checklist or logbook to show they’ve read and understood a new recipe. These types of automated processes will help with compliance while reassuring head office that the appropriate steps are being followed.   

Roberts continued: “Complying with every stipulation of Natasha’s Law will not be easy. For many, particularly smaller companies, vendors, and producers, it will introduce stringent and precise new regulations, and compliance will be heavily scrutinised. However, not only is it ultimately for a worthy cause, but with the right tools, processes, and training, complying with these new demands can be made infinitely easier.   

“This is where technological solutions can be a particularly useful asset, saving time, increasing productivity, and decreasing risk – for the company and the customers. Management software such as mpro5 can help create, regulate, and monitor the processes each staff member goes through to make sure old and new regulations are being followed to the letter. At the end of the day, anything the food industry can do to help consumers make safer food choices and prevent future tragedies should be openly embraced, and technological tools just make this a little easier,” concluded Roberts.  

You can read more about the changes to food labelling laws on the Food Standards Agency website.  

Anne Godfrey, CEO of GS1 UK, comments: “Implementation of this vital law is paramount to ensuring the safety of all consumers. However, we know that just a few weeks ago, a concerning 80% of business owners in the food industry felt unprepared ahead of this deadline.

“We are therefore calling for greater industry transparency and collaboration in support of these businesses alongside the increased digitisation of food supply chains, helping manufacturers, retailers and business owners accurately track all of their food item ingredients so that customers can be fully informed, and lives saved.

“We strongly encourage the industry to utilise GS1 standards to ensure information can be accurately collected and shared in a way that will ensure full traceability between a myriad of systems and technology platforms throughout the supply chain.”

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Customer safety is a key priority for local shops and we have continued to work with convenience retailers over the two-year implementation period to ensure that they are prepared for the introduction of the new law on allergens.”

ACS has developed a one-page explainer for local shops to help them prepare for the introduction of Natasha’s Law, the explainer is available here.