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Name it, list it, label it: are you all set for the new food regulations?

Natasha’s law”, named after the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse (a teenager who died after an allergic reaction to a Pret A Manger sesame baguette bought in Heathrow airport, at a Pret shop), is coming into force on 1 October 2021 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Under Natasha’s law - which originally comes from the retained version of the EU Regulation 1169/2011, the Food Information Regulations 2014 and The Food Information (Amendments) (England) Regulations 2019 -  food businesses shall put a label on pre-packaged for direct sale (“PPDS”) food stating (1) the name of the food, (2) the full ingredients list and (3) allergen information (the 14 allergens required to be declared by law must be emphasised in some way).

These new food regulations aim to protect allergy sufferers and to give them confidence in making safe food choices.

What is PPDS food? How to produce a food label? Many challenges, implications and new responsibilities result from these new food regulations which may be perceived by food businesses as another obligation and regulatory hurdle.

Clearly, chains and franchises have already adapted and taken steps to be compliant with these regulations, even ahead of the deadline of the 1 October 2021, whereas for small and medium sized independent businesses, it is more difficult. Indeed, they need money and bargaining power to influence food suppliers which are obviously not a given for those businesses.

However, innovation, creativity, originality, differentiation are certainly not the monopoly of the big chains. These new food regulations may be considered as an opportunity for smaller, independent businesses to grow. There is value in going further than just the letter of law (by providing for example, details of nutrition, calories and/or provenance of ingredients or by guaranteeing that the product is vegetarian or vegan) and digitalisation may offer cost-efficient solutions.

Cheat sheet on the new food regulations:

(to have further detailed information and guidance on the new food regulations, please visit the Food Standards Agency website.)

  • PPDS food: 3 criteria: food (1) presented to the consumer in packaging, (2) before the consumer selects or orders it and (3) packaged at the same place it is sold.

    It means that food without packaging (such as loose fruit and veg, bread without wrapping, food packed on the sales premises at the consumer’s request after being selected/ordered), food sold from a delicatessen counter, food from a takeaway are not PPDS food and therefore not subject to labelling. Allergen information may be communicated through a variety of means, notably orally.
  • Who is responsible for labelling the PPDS food? Food businesses which pack their food products on site to sell to consumers.

    Therefore, labels for prepacked food which is not produced at the site of sale must be produced by the food manufacturer.

  • How to obtain accurate and up-to-date data about ingredients and allergens and how to produce a food label?

    These are the biggest challenges for food businesses, especially the independent small and medium sized businesses, which will rely on the information provided by their food suppliers to produce accurate labels.

These are the biggest challenges for food businesses, especially the independent small and medium sized businesses, which will rely on the information provided by their food suppliers to produce accurate labels.

There is also the inevitable variability factor to take into account: there is a need of a process to update the information on the label if there is a change of food supplier and/or ingredients.

Food labels may be handwritten (as long as they are easily visible and clearly legible and comply with the font size requirement) but this method has the risk of human error and may appear to be less professional. Printed food labels may therefore be preferred and there are offers of pre-printed packaging but this means that no last minute change can happen and recurrence in the offer of food products is a pre-requisite too (whereas smaller food businesses tend to change their ingredients and food products daily). There are labels providers which offer a software package using a database of ingredients and allergens combined with a label printer to produce bespoke food labels, including branding and barcode.

However, the future lays in digitalisation: 2D barcode, like a QR code, on a food product’s packaging with links to additional and unlimited data sources, seems to be a very good, easy, innovative and cost-efficient solution.

If you need advice on contracts with your food suppliers and/or label solutions providers, please contact Audrey Calvas.

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