Kent food businesses are being urged to get support now to comply with allergy labelling laws after spot checks by Kent County Council’s (KCC) Trading Standards revealed new rules are not always being followed.
Under Natasha’s Law, which came into force on 1 October 2021, food that is pre-packaged on the same premises it is sold, like takeaway sandwiches and salads, must have their full ingredients listed so allergy suffers can be more confident about the on-the-go food they eat.
However, samples sent by KCC Trading Standards for testing between October and December 2021 continued to show the presence of common allergens, such as dairy and nuts, not listed on labelling – as now required.
Mark Rolfe, Head of West Malling-based KCC Kent Scientific Services – one of four official food and feed testing labs in England – said: “Over the last two years we have carried out 505 tests for the presence of allergens for Trading Standards, including Kent Trading Standards, and Environmental Health teams across the South and South East. 56 tests failed.
“More recently, in the three months following the introduction of Natasha’s Law, our forensic analysis has detected 19 instances of undeclared allergens, four involving sesame, in 83 samples tested.
“The impact on consumers when they eat food containing undeclared allergens can be really serious. The presence of gluten can cause someone living with Celiac Disease severe illness or discomfort while sesame can cause serious illness, and even death, as we saw in the case which led to the introduction of Natasha’s Law.”
The new allergy labelling law follows a tireless campaign by the parents of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse. The teenager died after suffering a fatal reaction to sesame seeds in a Pret baguette.
Samantha Padfield, Kent Trading Standards Operations Manager, said out of a total 30 Kent samples tested in labs since October, 24 had not complied.
Samantha Padfield said: “I want to reassure everyone that we are working closely with the county’s food businesses to ensure they are in no doubt about what they need to do to meet the new allergy labelling requirements.
“We are very aware food allergies are a growing issue, particularly for young people, and sadly lives are lost every year in the UK as a result of severe allergic reactions.
“We want to get this right and, thanks to funding from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), we are offering a range of free advice to help businesses comply and give customers confidence which, in turn, will help food firms grow.
“That said we continue to keep our enforcement approach under review and those who fail to act on this advice will face formal enforcement action.”
Mike Hill, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, said: “Given the potentially serious consequences of regulatory breaches on allergen labelling for consumers and traders, I urge any Kent business wanting help and advice to contact Trading Standards by calling 03000 412020 or emailing TSbusinessadvice@kent.gov.uk
“I also encourage food businesses who do not already follow Kent Business Advice on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to join the several thousand who do to get the latest news on training sessions and guidance.”
For more information about the allergen labelling changes visit GOV.UK Free Food Standards Agency guidance can also be found at www.food.gov.uk/allergen-labelling-changes-for-prepacked-for-direct-sale-ppds-food
Find out more about the Ednan-Laperouses’ campaign on the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation website and sign up to the FSA ‘News and Alerts’ at food.gov.uk/news-alerts to stay up-to-date with allergen news.
Follow #SpeakUpForAllergies on social media for free advice on living with food allergies and watch this Kent Trading Standards video on You Tube here to get an introduction to the new labelling requirements of Natasha’s Law.