Allergy sufferers across the UK are welcoming the introduction of “Natasha’s Law”, but what does this mean for food suppliers? Gavin Poole, partner in Stephens Scown’s corporate team, explains the effects of the new law.
“Natasha’s Law” requires food businesses to include full ingredients labelling on pre-packaged foods, and has been widely welcomed by the food industry and in particular the country’s two million food allergy sufferers.
The government will introduce legislation by the end of summer 2019 (which will come into force by summer 2021), giving businesses time to adapt to the change.
The details of the new law
The law came after a consultation, which sought options over:
- full ingredient list labelling
- allergen-only labelling
- “ask the staff” labels on products
- promoting best practice to businesses
This consultation found a 70% backing of the ‘full ingredients labelling’ option.
The reforms will cover labelling requirements of foods that are prepared and packed on the same premises from which they are sold, so this would include a packaged sandwich or salad made early in the day and made available for purchase. All businesses (including those selling at festivals and fairs) should begin to familiarise themselves with the requirements. The reforms also cover zero-waste food businesses, as covered in our food and drink article from earlier in 2019.
Natasha’s law is expected to be introduced through the Food Information Regulations 2014 (FIR 2014). Under the regulations, the local food authority is the current enforcement body and the penalty for breach is a criminal offence attracting substantial financial penalties.
What should food supply businesses do now?
As ever, mapping the supply chain is going to be critical. Our 2017 article about reducing risks in food production remains relevant. The supply chain will require utmost scrutiny and potentially visits to suppliers (and their suppliers) to ensure authenticity of provenance.
The contracts with those suppliers should be reviewed and updated, to reflect not only the financial penalties that could be imposed, but also the reputational damage that an allergen ingredient incident might inflict.
The list of relevant ingredients can be found in the summary of responses and Government response to the consultation; the list includes cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts, soya beans, milk, nuts, celery, mustard, sesame seeds (the particular ingredient in Natasha Ednan-Laperouse’s case), sulphur dioxide and sulphites, lupin and molluscs.
Suppliers would do well to check their contracts, and the remedies available to them in the event of a breach of contract. Remember that the remedy will only be as good as the financial covenant of the supplier.
Gavin Poole is a partner in the corporate team at Stephens Scown. If you would like to talk about this article or any other corporate law matter, then please contact Gavin on 01872 265100, or by email at email@example.com.