The Government has announced new legislation (The Food Information (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2019) for Pre-Packed Food For Direct Sale ("PPDS"), which is set to come into effect on 1 October 2021. The long-awaited legislation known as “Natasha’s Law” was laid before Parliament after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse suffered an allergic reaction from eating a Pret A Manger baguette in 2016. You can find our previous article covering the death of Natasha here.

The new legislation which only applies in England, makes amendments to the current Food Information Regulations 2014 in that PPDS (whether supplied to a final consumer or mass caterer), must have the following either on the packaging or on a label attached to the packaging:

  • the name of the food; and
  • a list of ingredients with any of the 14 allergens listed in the EU FIC.

It is understood that Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland are working towards introducing similar legislation.

When is pre-packaged food?

PPDS is defined as “any single item for presentation as such to the final consumer and to mass caterers, consisting of a food and the packaging into which it was put before being offered for sale, whether such packaging encloses the food completely or only partially, but in any event in such a way that the contents cannot be altered without opening or changing the packaging[1]

The key here seems to be the fact contents cannot be altered without opening or changing the packaging. If the contents of the food can be altered without opening or changing the packaging, then it would not be classed as pre-packaged food.

The Government consultation (linked below) sets outs a useful checklist of what constitutes PPDS. In short, food is PPDS if it:

  1. is presented to the consumer in packaging;
  2. is packaged before the consumer selects or orders it; and
  3. is packaged at the same place it is sold.

If food is packaged by the same food business on the same site from which it is sold, or sold from temporary or moveable premises (such as a food truck/market stall) by the same food business that packaged it, it is classed as being sold at the same place as packaged.

Practical Implications

Whilst the change in legislation will further enhance the protections for allergy sufferers, it will have a profound impact on small businesses. Many small businesses are independent café owners, often with limited resource, high overheads, and small profit margins. Many also lack the technical expertise and do not have the time and resource to produce labels for the pre-packaged food they sell.

The Grocer magazine reports (15.02.2020) that food wholesalers who supply to small and medium-sized enterprises (“SMEs”) are urging the Government to provide a mandate for an allergens database so that wholesalers can accurately pass on any allergy information to SMEs and to ensure the most updated information is available in one location. We await to see further developments on this.

Additionally, despite the Government’s best intentions to protect allergen sufferers, the change in law may present a challenge to food businesses and the growing trend of food festivals and food markets in the UK by imposing additional obligations. Under the current definition of PPDS, consumers could also be put at risk by food retailers who offer for sale unpacked food until after the conclusion of the sale – at present such retailers are not required to display allergen information on packaging.

Next Steps

Food Business Operators should take steps to ensure internal policies and procedures are in place to comply with the legislation. Business should also consider training all responsible people who produce the food – this ensures that if one staff member is off, the other is able to offer his/her assistance in ensuring the relevant ingredients are accurately conveyed on the product.

Consultation

The Food Standards Agency are currently consulting on whether Technical Guidance should be updated to principally reflect the changes in legislation discussed above. Responses are required by 6 March 2020. You can contribute to the consultation by clicking here.