In 2016 Natasha Ednan-Laperouse bought a baguette from Pret a Manger; unbeknownst to Natasha, the bread contained sesame seeds. That ingredient was not listed on the packaging, and Natasha suffered a fatal allergic reaction.
At the time, fresh food that was made and packaged on the premises did not need to have an individual label listing the ingredients and any allergies. At the inquest into Natasha’s death, the Coroner listed several concerns, including that the allergens were not clearly labelled and that Pret had no coherent or coordinated system for monitoring allergic reactions. There had been six allergic reaction cases in the year before Natasha died.
The Coroner stated that the Chief Executive of Pret a Manger, the MHRA and the Secretary of State take action to prevent further deaths. DEFRA’s response to the Coroner detailed the different applicable regulations for products “pre-packed for direct sale”, whereby pre-packed food in a supermarket would require allergen labelling but not in a food-to-go outlet. The Secretary of State started a dialogue with key stakeholders and industry representatives considering potential regulatory and non-regulatory approaches.
Natasha’s parents set up the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation and launched a parliamentary petition calling for an “allergy tsar”. They campaigned for a change in the law based on the loophole in the food labelling legislation.
As a result, the regulations have now changed. All food retailers will be required to display full ingredient and allergen labelling on every food item made on the premises and packaged for direct sale.
The UK Food Information Amendment amends the 2014 Regulations. The amendment improves the provision of information to consumers for food pre-packed for direct sale. It places a clear duty on food businesses to label such foods with the name of the food and a full list of ingredients, emphasising allergens.
The amendment came into force on 1st October 2021 and applies to businesses throughout the UK. One in five people are said to suffer from an allergy, so it is an essential amendment for which breach has serious consequences.
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[Image credit: “Every day 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread (4 of 5)” by rainydayknitter is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0]