New law to enforce stricter labelling rules for pre-packaged food

25/06/2019 - 08:26
A new law requiring food businesses to include full ingredients labelling on pre-packaged foods has been announced by the government.

The environment secretary, Michael Gove, has announced plans to introduce ‘Natasha’s Law’ by summer 2021 in an effort to protect food allergy sufferers.

Named after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse who died after suffering an allergic reaction to a Pret a Manger baguette, the new law will ‘strengthen’ existing labelling requirements.

Currently written allergen information is only required on pre-packaged food prepared off-site. The new law would require businesses to ensure that food prepared on the premises in which it is sold is also labelled with an ingredients and allergens list.

The government plans to introduce legislation by the end of this summer mandating full ingredients labelling for foods pre-packed for direct sale, ahead of the law coming into force.

However, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has said that full ingredient labelling may ‘undermine’ allergen dialogue.

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “We understand the sensitivity around the introduction of the legislation, but we also think this is a retrograde step. Food safety is an incredibly important issue to our members and the entire sector. Many businesses have already taken voluntary steps to proactively deal with the issue and continue to do so. We take the matter very seriously and maintain high standards, but we are worried that this new legislation could be unwieldy, difficult for some businesses to implement and potentially dangerous.

“We firmly believe the best way to raise awareness of allergens and keep customers safe is to promote an active dialogue between customers and businesses. That is why we recommended the promotion of voluntary labelling and encouraging customers to talk to the business and ask about ingredients and possible allergens. That way, we can build a relationship between consumers and team members that promotes mindfulness on both sides.

“We are worried that full ingredient labelling is going to prevent the kind of dialogue we need to promote. Some smaller businesses may struggle with the unwieldly new legislation and it is almost certainly going to lead to much less choice for customers. There is also a risk that the new measures, which will not circumvent cross-contamination and will be open to mislabelling, will only promote a dangerous reliance on labelling.”

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