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Natasha’s Law: The Paradigm For Food Safety

There are so many food-related allergies, and to ensure all meals are safe, all food items must always be well-labeled. Natasha's Law ensures that people with allergies know what their food contains and how to avoid harmful ingredients.

What is Natasha’s Law?

Natasha’s law helps protect people with food allergies who rely on food companies being comprehensive with their food labeling to know if anything contains allergens. This is especially important for goods that are sold for immediate consumption, as prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) goods are food items packaged and consumed at the same place they are sold to customers and have been packaged before selling.

Natasha’s law is a food allergen law that requires PPDS to be duly labeled before being sold to customers. This is so customers with food allergies can read the list of ingredients and know if it is safe for them to consume. Foods that are not prepackaged for direct sale should also inform consumers of their allergen information, but this can be done any other way, including verbally.

Natasha’s law is a U.K. food allergen law that spans the whole of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. This law mandates all PPDS businesses to label all their food products with the name and a detailed ingredient list, complete with the allergenic ingredients emboldened.

However, this food allergen law does not apply to foods bought over the phone. Regardless, businesses that sell PPDS this way have to supply a detailed list of ingredients complete with allergen information to the customer. This can be done before the customers buy or at the point of delivery, as long as it happens before consumption.

About 2-4% of adults are allergic to at least one food, and 20% of the population have food intolerances and sensitivities. This is why allergen management is so important, as this ensures restaurants and other food businesses are conscious of food allergies and state clearly if some foods contain allergens. Allergen management means restaurants have trained their employees on the proper handling of allergenic ingredients in case of cross-contamination.

In this guide, we will explore:

1. The History of Natasha’s Law

2. What Natasha’s Law Means

3. What a Food Allergy Is

4. Who Natasha’s Law Affects

5. How To Successfully Implement Allergy Management Strategies

6. The 14 Allergen Foods According To The Food Allergen Law

Two epipens infront of a blue background

The History of Natasha’s Law

Natasha’s law came to being when in 2016 Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, a 15 year-old British girl, died of an anaphylactic shock after having consumed a pre-packaged baguette, not-knowing, as it was not indicated, that sesame seeds, to which she was allergic, had been baked into the dough of the baguette.

After researching food regulations and realizing that, at the time, pre-packaged foods could legally be sold without allergen indicators and a full ingredient list, Natasha’s parents, Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, campaigned for a new law to avoid other people suffering as their daughter had.

After years of campaigning, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, announced the consultation of a new law regarding food labeling in 2019.

The food allergen law ultimately came into effect in October 2021 allowing businesses to take two years to adjust to the new law. The Food Standards Agency ensures that companies follow through and dutifully label their foods. According to research, 88% of the public agrees with Natasha’s law. This makes it a must for food vendors to ensure food safety amidst the myriad food-related allergies – to protect themselves and their customers.

What Does Natasha’s Law Mean?

Natasha’s law is relevant for all food-business owners in the UK and was introduced to ensure those food businesses that sell prepackaged food state precisely what their food contains.

Food ordered online, eaten at a restaurant, bought as takeaway, or made to order, for example, does not need to indicate the full list of ingredients. In this case, which mostly applies to restaurants, pubs, bars and hotels, it is only necessary to inform the customer if a food item contains any allergens.

Natasha’s law focuses on the pre-packaged food business and means that if you sell any item of food (e.g. sandwiches, salads, etc.) that people can buy and eat on the go, you are mandated to list all your ingredients on your packaging. This applies to all types of PPDS food businesses, whether small or large.

If you fail to comply with this law as a PPDS business, you can be fined as as of October 2021. Food businesses should take an active part in taking care of their customer’s health by ensuring that they do not eat any life-threatening foods to which they’re allergic. This will help people with food-related allergies feel comfortable picking up a salad or cake without fear of a flare-up as they are sure of what it contains. Natasha’s law directly states that every food item for PPDS must be labeled. Therefore, a PPDS food business must have a reliable labeling system in place.

What Is A Food Allergy?

In order to manage allergies appropriately, it is important to get a clear definition of what a food allergy actually is, as most people confuse food allergies with food intolerances. A food allergy, as opposed to a mere intolerance, is the immune system’s reaction to a certain food item. These reactions can be rather mild, but can just as well turn deadly, depending on the individual case.

Food allergies happen when the body’s immune system treats some food protein as harmful pathogens, such as bacteria, parasites, or viruses, and starts to fight against them. Consequently, many chemicals are released in your body which causes an allergic reaction. Almost any food can cause some reaction, but there are some foods that contain commonly and widely known allergens. Foods that are commonly known to cause allergic reactions are:

  • peanuts
  • tree nuts
  • eggs
  • milk
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • various fruit and vegetables

While the actual cause of food allergies is still largely unknown, common symptoms include:

  • itchy sensations in mouth, throat or ears
  • swelling of face, eyes, lips, tongue, roof of the mouth, potentially leading to asphyxiation
  • rashes
  • vomiting

Some allergic reactions are more subtle than others, while some are life-threatening. The most severe cases of food allergies result in anaphylaxis, which can be fatal. The symptoms of anaphylaxis are difficulty breathing, trouble swallowing and breathing, or feeling faint.

There are three types of food allergies, depending on their symptoms:

  • An IgE-mediated food allergy is the most commonly found type of food allergy. It is caused by the immune system producing the immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody. You start experiencing the symptoms a few seconds or minutes after eating.
  • Non-IgE-mediated food allergies occurs hours after you had the meal that contained allergens. This is why it may be hard to diagnose, as the symptoms do not develop immediately. This food allergy isn’t caused by immunoglobulin E but by other immune system cells.
  • Mixed IgE and non-IgE-mediated food allergies have some people experience the symptoms of both IgE-mediated food allergies and non-IgE-mediated food allergies.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases states that food allergies affect 4% of adults and 5% of children in the United States. Therefore, knowing what food allergies are is essential for proper allergen management. As someone operating in the food industry, you need to have an action plan in place in order to be able to work quickly in the case of an emergency.

Close-up of peanuts

Who Does Natasha’s Law Affect?

As per Natasha’s law, food pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) must have a list of ingredients on each food item, affecting all food businesses in the U.K, as well as end-consumers. By displaying the ingredients clearly, the law helps protect food-allergic people like Natasha from having serious health impairments after eating a meal and supports them in making safe food choices.

Natasha’s law is a great food management strategy that ensures the safety of people with food allergies by enforcing the rule that cafes, supermarkets and delis that make food on the spot, pack, and sell, always keep the end-consumer in mind and pay attention to their medical needs.

Restaurants and kitchens are not affected by this food allergen law, however, staff should still make sure that they know which allergens the foods they use contain, so that they can inform customers appropriately. It is further important to always be wary of any type of cross-contamination in order to avoid every danger possible.

If you run a small deli or cafe and you may not have the time to tutor your staff, you can have them take allergen awareness training to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

The Guide To Allergy Management

For your private life, the best allergen management method is avoidance. However, in the day and age we live in, it can be difficult to manage severe allergies as we often consume pre-packaged food. That’s why it is so important that companies and the food industry in general take allergy management seriously and have an allergy management plan in place to guarantee that their food is not contaminated with any allergens for food allergy sufferers.

Laws and regulations, such as Natasha’s law, are a great step in the right direction that enforce compliance and punishes where and when necessary, as public health is seriously at risk if food regulations are not followed strictly.

This is why regulatory bodies have already introduced special food management systems, such as HACCP in order to ensure food safety as best as possible. HACCP, as opposed to Natasha’s law is already an internationally recognized standard, however, many other countries have rules and regulations regarding allergen management in place.

In the U.S. for example, The Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act of 2021 now considers sesame as a “major food allergen” that needs to be clearly labeled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The law was introduced and passed by the Senate in March 2021. Several US states have restaurant laws that say restaurants must showcase a food allergy awareness poster in the employee area. They also have to put a notice on their menu stating that they should inform the restaurant if anyone has an allergy.

As the old saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry and to start raising awareness for food allergies in your business strategy, even if there are no laws yet in place.

The 14 Allergens According To The Food Allergen Law

For informational purposes, you will find here a list of the 14 recognized food allergens. All food businesses should inform customers if their meal contains these 14 allergens:

  • Celery is commonly found in vegetable juice, spice mixes, soups, vegetable, marmite, Curry, Bouillon, processed meat products, savory snacks, Sausages, and Prepared Salads. They could be listed as Celery seed, Celery leaf, Celery salt, Celeriac, or Celeriac, Celery stalk.
  • Cereals Containing Gluten- wheat, rye, barley, and oats are often found in foods containing flour, some baking powder, batter, breadcrumbs, cakes, couscous, meat products, pasta, pastry, sauces, soups, and some fried food. They are usually found in Bread, Baked goods, Baking mixes, Pasta, Crackers, Cereals, Condiments, Chocolates, and Sauces.
  • Crustaceans could be labeled as Amphipods, Barnacles, Crabs, Hermit Crabs, Crayfish, Isopods, Lobsters, Mantis Shrimp, Mussel Shrimp, Mysids, Sea Spiders, Shrimp, Prawns. Crustaceans are Crabs, lobster, prawns, and scampi crustaceans. Shrimp paste is an allergen in this category that is commonly used in Thai and Southeast Asian cooking. It would help if you looked out for this in Paella, Chinese products, Thai Curry, Prepared sauces, Soups, Asian Salad, Fried rice, Fish paste, and Fish Soup.
  • Eggs are mostly in cakes, meat products, mayonnaise, mousses, pasta, quiche, sauces, and pastries. Some food products are glazed with eggs during cooking. Eggs may be on the label of food as Albumin, Apovitellin, Cholesterol free egg substitute, Dried egg solids, Dried egg, Egg, Egg white, Egg yolk, Egg wash, Eggnog, Fat substitutes, Globulin, Livetin, Lysozyme, Mayonnaise, Meringue, Meringue powder, Ovalbumin, Ovoglobulin, Ovomucin, Ovomucoid, Ovotransferrin, Ovovitelia, Ovovitellin, Powdered eggs, Silica albuminate, Simplesse, Surimi, Trailblazer, Vitellin, Whole egg. They are usually found in Meringue, Mayonnaise, Marzipan, Marshmallow, Artificial flavoring, Baked goods, Lecithin, Natural flavorings, Nougat, Pasta, Salad dressing, Tartare Sauce, Hollandaise, Cakes, Egg glazed pastry, Some ice cream, Some custard.
  • Fish- could be used in pizzas, relishes, salad dressings, stock cubes, and Worcestershire sauce. It is usually labeled as Anchovies, Bass, Catfish, Cod, Flounder, Grouper, Haddock, Hake, Halibut, Herring, Mahi Mahi, Perch, Pike, Pollock, Salmon, Scrod, Swordfish, Sole, Snapper, Tilapia, Trout, Tuna. The food containing this allergen are Barbecue Sauce, Soups, Pizza, Caesar salad and Caesar dressing, Worcestershire sauce, Bouillabaisse, Imitation or artificial fish or shellfish (“sea legs” or “sea sticks,” is one example), Meatloaf, Barbecue sauce, Caponata, a Sicilian eggplant relish, Num Pla, Dips, Gelatine, Relishes.
  • Lupin- Lupin is a flower that is sometimes found in flour and may be used in bread, pastries, and pasta. It is usually labeled as Lupine, Lupin flour, Lupin seed, or Lupin bean. This food may contain lupin, Pastry cases, Pies, Waffles, Pancakes, Crepes, Products containing crumbs, Pizzas, Vegetarian meat substitutes, and Deep-coated vegetables such as onion rings.
  • Milk- mostly in dairy products such as butter, cheese, cream, milk powders, and yogurt. Some foods are also glazed with milk during cooking. It’s also commonly found in powdered soups and sauces. These contain milk; Milk, Milk powder, Buttermilk, Butter, Ghee, Yoghurt, Natural flavoring, Flavouring, Caramel flavoring, High protein flour, Lactic acid starter culture, Rice cheese, Soy cheese, Cream, Ice Cream, Cheese, Custard, Margarine, Chocolate, Instant Mash.
  • Molluscs- are mussels, land snails, squid, and whelks, but they can also be found in oyster sauce, commonly used in fish stews, for example. They are usually found in Ethnic Food, Soups, Sauces, Mussel dishes, Scallops, and Calamari.
  • Mustard: this ingredient is majorly used in bread, curries, marinades, meat products, salad dressings, sauces, and soups. It is also usually in foods like Sausages and processed meat products, Chutneys, Soups, Sauces, Chutney, Piccalilli, Salad dressing, Indian foods, Salad Dressings (vinaigrettes and cruditées), Spices, flavoring or seasoning, Barbecue Sauce, Curry Sauce, Cumberland Sauce, Ketchup, tomato sauce, Béarnaise Sauce, Mayonnaise, Pesto, Gravies, Marinades, Chutneys pickles and other pickled products, Vegetables with vinegar, Dehydrated soups.
  • Nuts (Tree nuts): this does not include peanuts. These are cashew nuts, almonds, and hazelnuts. It could be labeled Almond, Hazelnuts, Walnuts, Cashews, Pecan Nuts, Brazil Nuts, Pistachio Nuts, Macadamia, or Queensland Nuts.
  • Peanuts: these are often in biscuits, cakes, curries, desserts, sauces, groundnut oil, and peanut flour. These foods contain peanuts; Artificial flavoring; baked goods, Candy, Chili, Chocolate, Crumb toppings, Egg rolls, Enchilada sauce; ethnic foods: African, Asian, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, Fried foods, Flavouring, Graham cracker crust, Hydrolyzed plant protein, Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, Marzipan, Mole sauce, Natural flavoring, Nougat.
  • Sesame: usually found in bread or used as garnishing on buns like hamburger buns, bread sticks, houmous, sesame oil, and tahini. Usually found in Bread, Soups, Crackers, Tahini butter, Dressings, Marinades, Toast, Dips, Hummus, Sauces, and Chutney.
  • Soya: can be found in food like bean curd, edamame beans, miso pates, textured soya protein, soya flour, or tofu. You should stay off oriental food if allergic to soya as it is a staple ingredient in oriental food. Additionally, it can be found in desserts, ice cream, meat products, sauces, and vegetarian products.
  • Sulphur Dioxide (Sulphites): used in dried fruits and some meat products, soft drinks, vegetables, wine, and beer. Asthmatics are more prone to developing an allergy to sulfites. Commonly found in Pickled foods and vinegar, Dried fruit, e.g., dried apricots, prunes, raisins, etc., Maraschino cherries, Tinned coconut milk, beer, wine and cider, Vegetable juices, Some soft drinks, Grape juice, Bottled lemon juice and lime juice, Condiments (bottled sauces, etc.), Guacamole, Dehydrated, pre-cut or peeled potatoes, Fresh or frozen prawns, Some processed meat products.

Pre-packaged sandwich on a plate
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