Image showing allergens - Natasha's Law

Protecting Allergy Sufferers – Natasha’s Law

Natasha’s Law comes into effect this October. The law will hopefully mean that allergy sufferers can now confidently and safely eat the foods they have bought.

by Emma Johnson

Approximately 2 million people in the UK suffer from a food allergy, even more have a food intolerance. Between 1998 and 2018, doctors admitted 101,891 people into hospital for anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction. Improved medical intervention and understanding of allergies and treatment methods has reduced loss of life, hospital admissions continue to rise.

It is so important that we all start to get a better understanding of food allergies and intolerance.

Natasha’s Law

Improvements in the law around food labelling, known as Natasha’s Law (UK Food Information Amendment) have finally taken place this October. The new law requires all food producers to provide a full list of ingredients on all prepackaged foods. In addition, they must highlight allergenic ingredients in bold, italics or other colours.

The government is introducing the new law as a result of the actions of a lobbying group, led by Natasha Ednan-Laperouse’s parents. Sadly for them, it took the death of their beloved daughter to realise just how serious the flaws in the existing labelling laws were. Natasha was just 15 and preparing for a family holiday when the food she believed to be safe took her life.

She simply bought and ate an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette from Pret-a-Manger at Heathrow Airport. Because she had checked the ingredients, she believed she could trust it. As she sat on the plane, she had a serious allergic reaction. Sesame seeds caused that allergic reaction but incredibly the producer had not listed them on the ingredients. They are a known allergen risk.

Despite efforts by her father, administering two Epi-pens, she had several cardiac arrests before losing her life at a French hospital. The corona stated that had Natasha seen the full list of ingredients contained within the baguette she would not have eaten it. A food labelling loop hole meant they did not have to be fully displayed. From now on all food businesses will be required to provide a full list of ingredients and allergen labelling.

 Allergy UK’s Top 14 Food Allergens:
  1. Plants – Celery, soya
  2. Cereals containing gluten
  3. Seafood – Crustaceans, molluscs, fish
  4. Diary – Eggs; Milk
  5. Nuts and Seeds – Lupin; Mustard; Tree Nuts; Peanuts; Sesame seeds;
  6. Additives – Sulphur dioxide (sometimes known as sulphites)
Look for the Symptoms

Reactions to food often take place within minutes of eating the allergen but can be delayed by a couple of hours. Classic symptoms include:

Gut reactionsAbdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea

Skin reactions:Itching and swelling (rash or nettle rash)

Respiratory reactions:Runny nose, sneezing, wheeze, cough

Other Considerations

Schools

Allergy UK estimate that one in every thirteen children (about 2 per classroom) have an allergy diagnosis. Schools must c comply with all the laws around food, however, issues often arise from foods being brought into schools by other children.

Allergy UK do not necessarily advocate complete food bans and it is almost impossible to remove all risks in schools. It is essential that school leaders raise awareness about the risks amongst teachers, parents and children.

We should not assume that all allergies are the same or that every reaction will require hospitalisation. Children diagnosed as coeliac can be left in excruciating pain for months after coming into contact with gluten.

If you have a child with an allergy:

  • Book an appointment with the head teacher / class teacher
  • Provide detailed written information about your child’s allergy
  • Ensure that the school trains all staff who supervise your child to be aware of warning signs
  • Give a clear written management plan
  • Discuss possible risk areas
  • Provide in date allergy medication with clear instructions for use.
  • Ensure the school locks it away and regularly checks the dates

If you have any concerns refer to the schools complaints policy.

Local Businesses Selling Food to The Public

Before selling their produce, all food sellers must register with their local authority. And, of course, most make a real effort to ensure they have food safety measures in place – think good hygiene and prevention of cross-contamination. In fact, you are probably very conscious of the potential bacteria found within raw foods. You are even likely check how vendors store their food before buying it. Possibly, you will also consider how hygienic a premises and the staff look before buying. Indeed, the most safety conscious of us will refuse the free sample, despite all the safety measures.

Local Suppliers are Not Exempt from Labelling

Hopefully, Natasha’s law will now make both food sellers and the public more aware of the ingredients within the food. Sellers of all pre-packaged direct sales foods (PPDS), whether sold within a fixed premises or a market stall, must label it. No matter how big or small a business, you are required to include:

  • Name the food
  • All ingredients
  • Emphasise allergenic ingredients in bold, italics, alternative colours or underlining.
  • Indicate additives
  • Quantitative Ingredients Declaration (QUID)

If businesses sell pre-packaged products which they have not manufactured then they must comply with full labelling requirements.

Useful Information

Find out more about allergies:

Allergy UK

Natasha’s Law

Coeliac UK

Government Advice for Business