What does the introduction of 'Natasha's law' mean for food allergy sufferers?

'Natasha's Law' will be introduced by 2021 [Photo: Getty]

Food allergy sufferers will soon be protected under a new law following the death of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has announced.

The legislation, known as ‘Natasha’s Law’, means all food businesses will be required to include full ingredients labelling on pre-packaged food.

Introduced by environment secretary, Michael Gove, the law, which will apply to England and Northern Ireland, is set to come into force by the summer of 2021.

Natasha, 15, suffered a severe allergic reaction after unknowingly eating sesame contained in a baguette bought from a Pret a Manger at Heathrow Airport.

The teen died of anaphylaxis after collapsing on board a flight to Nice in July 2016.

Since then her parents have campaigned tirelessly for a change in the law that would see ingredients clearly listed on all pre-packaged food.

What are the current rules?

Under current rules, food prepared on the premises in which it is sold, for example a packaged sandwich or salad made by staff, is not required to display allergen information on the package.

Meanwhile, supermarket sandwiches already have to list full ingredients including allergens.

As the law stands at the moment an over-the-counter sandwich, if it is made to order in front of you, doesn't need a label and neither does a pre-prepared sandwich, made on the premises.

All that is required in these cases at the moment is a sign nearby prompting customers to ask about allergens.

But people are currently confused about labelling and menus when eating out.

According to a survey by the Food Standards Agency, 60% of respondents with a food allergy reported they had avoided eating out in the last six months because of their condition.

And only 14% reported feeling extremely confident asking for allergen information when eating out or ordering a takeaway/food online. The same number admitted to feeling not at all confident

New legislation will see all pre-packaged food labelled [Photo: Getty]

READ MORE: Mother’s heartbreaking warning after daughter with peanut allergy dies from eating cookie

What do the changes mean?

DEFRA has revealed the new legislation will see a tightening of the rules and a requirement that a full list of ingredients should be listed on all foods that are pre-packed directly for sale.

The government revealed that food businesses across the country have already taken steps to improve food labelling and outlets are being urged to do all they can ahead of the implementation date to help consumers make safe food choices.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) will continue to provide food businesses with guidance on allergens, and through its ‘Easy to Ask’ campaign it works to empower young people to ask food businesses about allergens when eating out so they can make safe food choices.

The legislation was introduced following a consultation about full ingredients labelling, which received overwhelming support, with more than 70% agreeing it was a good idea.

Chair of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) Heather Hancock said she hopes the new law will help the UK to become the best place in the world for people living with food hypersensitivities.

Reactions to the new legislation

Natasha’s parents, Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, said the introduction of the law would be a “fitting legacy” following their daughter’s death.

“We are absolutely delighted that the secretary of state has announced the government’s decision to go ahead with full allergen and ingredient labelling,” they said.

“While Natasha’s Law comes too late to save our beloved daughter, we believe that helping save other allergy sufferers and their families from the enduring agony that we will always bear is a fitting legacy for her life.

“We would personally like to thank Michael Gove and health secretary Matt Hancock for their unflinching support in doing the right thing on behalf of all people with allergies, and their support in setting up the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation which we are launching today in Natasha’s memory.”

Heather Hancock, chairman of the Food Standards Agency, said the change will mean “better protection” for allergic consumers.

Allergy UK chief executive Carla Jones also welcomed the announcement, saying the national charity was “delighted” with the legislation.

“This move towards full ingredient labelling for pre-packed direct-sale food will improve the lives of the allergic customer and it is warmly welcomed here at Allergy UK,” she added.

READ MORE: Celery, mustard and sulphur dioxide: The surprising foods on the 14 top allergens list

Allergies: the stats

While allergies to dairy and nuts are well known, according to the UK’s Food Regulations 2014, there are 14 ingredients that businesses need to let customers know about if they are used in food.

Each could cause an allergic reaction to people who consume them.

Recent stats from the Food Standards Agency have revealed that there are 4,500 UK hospital admissions a year from food allergy and 10 food allergy deaths per year.

The figures also reveal that 1 in 4 say they or a relative have had a reaction eating out and 8% of children and 2% of adults are affected by allergies or intolerance.

For more information, visit: food.gov.uk/allergy or nhs.uk/conditions/allergies

The BDA has a “Coping with food allergies” food fact sheet and an Allergies and Food Intolerances food fact sheet which provides information for those with food allergies.