The legislation, known as ‘Natasha’s Law’ after teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died after suffering an allergic reaction to a Pret a Manger baguette in 2016, will be announced by Environment Secretary Michael Gove later today and is expected to come into force by summer 2021
Under the new rules, all foods that are pre-packed directly for sale will have to carry a full list of ingredients.
At present, food prepared on the premises in which it is sold is not required to display allergen information in writing.
Mr Gove said: “These changes will make food labels clear and consistent and give the country’s two million food allergy sufferers confidence in making safe food choices.”
However, UKHospitality believes the measures will be ‘impractical and potentially hazardous’.
“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,” says UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls.
“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, which is why we recommended the promotion of voluntary labelling and encouraging customers to talk to the business and ask about ingredients and possible allergens.
“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.”
Dr Lisa Ackerley, food safety adviser for UKHospitality, adds: “If someone just picks up a sandwich, they may think it is made in a factory, but in fact it is in a totally different environment and frankly not as safe because of risk of cross contact. As there are over 100 allergens on top of the list of 14, catering businesses will have all kinds of food being handled in a small space, unlike a factory line where they make thousands of one type of sandwich on a line.”
The introduction of ‘Natasha’s Law’ follows a Government consultation in January that saw overwhelming support from consumers for full ingredients labelling, which was backed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
“The impact of food allergy and intolerance on quality of life can be as great or even greater than almost all other foodborne diseases,” says FSA chair Heather Hancock.
“Whilst it’s impossible to eliminate the risks entirely, we believe this change will mean better protection for allergic consumers.”