1 October 2021 saw “Natasha’s Law” come into effect. “Natasha’s Law” was passed in 2019 following the tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, a teenager who sadly died following a severe allergic reaction to food purchased in a high street food chain.
Following intense lobbying by Natasha’s family and greater awareness on the topic, from October this year all businesses and organisations, including schools, who prepare and package food on site need to comply with new labelling regulations. The intention is that these new labelling rules will provide potentially life-saving allergen information to consumers at the point of selection.
Pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) food is food that is prepared and packaged in the same location as it is offered or sold. Going forward, PPDS food will need to display on the foods’ labelling the name of the food, the full list of ingredients used and emphasise the 14 allergens required by law, including peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish, milk and gluten.
For school settings this will mean that any food prepared, then subsequently fully or partly packaged in school restaurants or on-site catering facilities will need to comply with the enhanced labelling rules, unless one of the exemptions set out below applies to the packaged food.
This applies to food that staff and pupils select themselves as well as to items kept behind a counter. In practice, the likes of fruit pots, pizzas, sandwiches, cakes and salads will be subject to the new rules whether offered at lunchtime or during snack breaks.
The finer details
However, the good news is that it may not be as daunting a prospect as it could be for schools trying to get to grips with new labelling requirements. The Food Standards Agency has confirmed that food made or plated to order does not fall within the scope of these new rules.
In practice, for schools this will mean that meals plated for pupils, for example hot meals served in the dining hall, will not need to comply with the new regulations but, instead adhere to current regulations regarding allergen information. Likewise, pre-packaged food which is brought on site from outsider providers should already have adequate, compliant, labelling.
What about individual food items (e.g. a granola bar or a slice of cake) and packed lunches? Food provided without packaging will not be caught by the new law, and neither will packed lunches that have been pre-ordered.
However, allergen information for packed lunches that have not been pre-ordered will need to comply with the new labelling requirements as they would be deemed to be PPDS. Packed lunches falling into this category will need labelling information for each individual packaged item included in the lunch.
Health and safety responsibility for younger pupils
Schools should also bear in mind that they have a health and safety responsibility when it comes to younger pupils who may not be able to make informed decisions with regards the food they eat whilst on school premises. Whilst details of student allergies may be managed at the moment by staff or school records, all food prepared and packaged on site before being ordered must now show enhanced labelling.
The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation suggests that up to 40% of children in the UK have a diagnosed allergy. Undoubtedly, Natasha’s Law will provide greater confidence to allergy sufferers, and greater transparency for all, but schools should be prepared for the additional burden this may place on resources.
How Moore Barlow can help
If you want to discuss the new requirements in more detail, please contact our expert team today.