The UK government has recently published The Food Information (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2019. This follows DEFRA's June announcement that new laws will require food businesses to include full ingredients labelling on pre-packaged foods – after the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse from an adverse reaction to sesame in a Pret a Manger baguette in 2016.
This statutory instrument is due to come into force on 1 October 2021 and amends the Food Information Regulations 2014. You can view "Natasha's Law" here.
The amendments bring in the following key changes to food labelling laws:
- Any food that is prepacked for direct sale, whether supplied to a final consumer (ie a customer in a cafe or a shop) or to a mass caterer (ie business to business sales), must have a list of ingredients placed directly on the package or on a label attached to the package (Regulation 5A).
- Any food that is prepacked for direct sale, whether supplied to a final consumer or to a mass caterer, must have the name of the food placed directly on the package or on a label attached to the package.
- The packaging or label must include the name of the product, and a full list of ingredients in quantitative order, with any of the 14 prescribed allergens highlighted in some other way. (Regulation 6A)
This is a major change from the previous law, which did not require cafes and other food outlets to label ingredients on prepacked food prepared in "local kitchens", relying on the exemption under the Food Information Regulations 2014. Prepacked food sold on a business to business basis was also previously exempt from the regulations.
The Coroner's inquest for Natasha Ednan-Laperouse and subsequent report criticised food retailers' use of the Regulation 5 exemption to avoid full food labelling where items are not prepared in "local kitchens" but rather in "factory style outlets…a device to evade the spirit of the regulation". Based on the coroner's findings, Natasha's parents campaigned for a change in the law, resulting in these amendments.
Under the new amendments, there is an exemption to Regulation 5A for packaging or containers with a surface area of less than 10cm2. There is also an exemption to both Regulation 5A and 6A, where the offer for sale is made by means of distance communication (ie you and your customer are not in the same place at the same time the food is purchased; for example, a sale over the internet or telephone).
The amendments introduced by Natasha's Law were laid before Parliament on 5 September 2019. As they were included in a Statutory Instrument, a vote was not required to enact the changes. There will now be a two year transition period to allow businesses to implement the new regulations.
It is clear that businesses in the food industry will be required to do more to help customers with allergies and raise awareness of allergen risks. We are likely to see further changes to the law on allergens, and businesses will need to follow developments in food labelling law closely, to ensure they are complying with their obligations.
The Food Standards Agency will publish information for industry on 1 October 2019, to help ensure that businesses of all sizes can prepare and adapt to the amendments.
We also listed some practical guidance in our previous article, Allergens – DEFRA announces new UK labelling laws for food businesses.
- New compliant labels will need to be produced, and the data maintained and checked regularly to ensure accuracy.
- Staff training on food laws is essential, as well as monitoring behaviour to ensure that standard operating procedures for allergens management are followed in practice.
- Allergen information should be readily available to customers and clearly visible (ie size of font, colour, location on signs, notice boards, packaging, menus etc).