What is Natasha’s Law?
Natasha’s Law is a UK law that relates to the display of allergens, planned to come into effect in October 2021. It was passed following the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who suffered a fatal allergic reaction to a pre-made sandwich that lacked comprehensive allergen labelling.
Under Natasha’s Law, food pre-packed for direct sale will need to be labelled with a full list of ingredients, and any of the 14 major allergens will need to be emphasised. This can be done through measures like bold lettering, capital letters, underlining, or contrasting colours.
The 14 major allergens which will need to be emphasised under Natasha’s Law are:
- Cereals containing gluten
- Sesame seeds
- Sulphur dioxide (also known as sulphites)
Take a look at the Food Standards Agency’s guidance for more detailed information on the 14 major allergens.
Natasha’s Law will come into effect on 1st October 2021. The changes will apply to England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, but similar changes are also expected to follow in Scotland.
Natasha’s Law: how will it impact your food business?
Natasha’s Law will directly impact any business, big or small, that sells food pre-packed for direct sale. This might include venues like cafes, delis, schools, and hospitals.
What is food pre-packed for direct sale?
Food pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) is food that has been prepared and packed in the same site as where it is sold. This includes food that customers can choose themselves (eg. on display shelves) and food behind a counter.
Food is considered to be pre-packed when:
- It is fully or partially encased by packaging
- It can’t be modified without opening or changing the packaging
- It is ready for sale
Some examples of PPDS foods:
- Sandwiches, salads, and soups packed on-site and shelved
- Free samples of cakes and cookies packed and handed out on-site
- Foods packed and then sold in a different temporary or mobile location (eg. a market stall or a food truck) by the same operator
- Foods packed and distributed in different places in one building complex (e.g. an airport or shopping centre) by the same operator
Check out the Food Standards Agency’s food labelling tool if you’re not sure whether you sell PPDS food.
Natasha’s Law: why does it matter?
Failure to comply with Natasha’s Law could result in significant fines or even criminal charges for your business. But beyond the legal aspect, following Natasha’s Law is crucial to keeping your customers safe.
About 2 million people in the UK have an allergy, and this number is on the rise. Businesses should treat the introduction of Natasha’s Law as an opportunity to review their health and safety practices and help customers with allergies feel safer about their food.
How can you prepare for Natasha’s Law?
Natasha’s Law: how should you print your labels?
Natasha’s Law will most likely require smaller businesses to take a different approach to label printing from that of larger businesses.
Under Natasha’s Law, you’ll need to immediately update your labels with the new ingredients if your recipe changes. You’ll also need to make it clear that the recipe has changed, so that previous buyers re-check the label. Large chains, where recipes remain largely consistent, will probably use batch-printed labels. For smaller businesses, where recipes and ingredients might change at short notice, pre-printed labels usually aren’t a practical solution.
Small businesses may consider hand-writing labels, but this is labour-intensive and isn’t scalable – it also defeats the point of the exercise if the labels are difficult to read.
Instead, we recommend printing your food labels yourself. This can be the cheapest and most flexible solution in the long run.
Choosing a printer
Many considerations should be taken into account when choosing a printer – reliability, versatility, connectivity, and of course, cost. When choosing a printer it is wise to consider the total cost of ownership. A common issue merchants encounter is buying a printer that initially seems cheap – until they have to buy toner or ink, which end up costing a lot.
Thermal labels are a cost-effective choice, as you won’t need to buy toner or ink – you’ll only need to replenish your thermal label rolls. Star offers a range of affordable direct thermal label printers that are suited to small hospitality businesses:
- TSP700II and TSP800II desktop thermal label printers with a range of connectivity options including Ethernet, Bluetooth and Cloud Printing
- SM-L200 and SM-L300 Bluetooth mobile label printers with Micro USB and vehicle charging, for labelling on the go
- TSP654IISK direct thermal liner-free label printer compatible with POS systems, tablets and cloud-based ordering platforms
The TSP654IISK printer is our top choice for food labelling for takeaway packaging in cafes, QSRs, and takeaway restaurants. The TSP654IISK produces linerless, repositionable labels. When orders are adjusted to cater for allergies – “no cheese”, for instance – a printed order label can follow the food prep process and be attached to the final packaging, for a customer to receive and confirm. The linerless media allows variable-length print-outs to match each order without wasting label stock. The TSP654IISK also includes a Paper Taken Sensor to hold each new order until the previous one has been taken.
Star offers UK-based support over email, phone, and chat – so you can be confident you’ll get the support you need to get your allergy labelling right.
Approaching label printing creatively
We spoke to Star’s Technical Director, David Pearce to find out more about how businesses can prepare for Natasha’s Law. He pointed out how businesses can approach printing labels for Natasha’s Law with more than a ‘must-do’ attitude.
“Faced with the challenge of preparing for Natasha’s Law, small businesses need the tools to print affordable labels efficiently and reliably. With a choice of Star desktop and mobile printers offering a range of features, business owners can benefit from a solution that not only meets individual requirements but also encourages repeat business thanks to the facility to add a logo or a coupon for a complimentary drink for example. The added ability to print directly from Web-based applications means that for large chains, the allergen list can be updated centrally and labels printed locally, minimising the risk of using outdated allergen data. ”
Natasha’s Law: best practices
The introduction of Natasha’s Law is a good opportunity to review best practices surrounding food safety – but the below applies to all hospitality businesses.
Make sure your staff has received up-to-date allergen awareness training. Your staff should know how to find an accurate and up-to-date list of ingredients for your products and how to share this information with customers effectively. If your ingredients change, make sure they’re made aware of this as soon as it happens.
The Food Standards Agency offers free food allergy and intolerance training, where you can learn more about how to manage allergens in a kitchen and cater for allergen information requirements.
A ‘free-from’ claim (e.g. “gluten free”) is a guarantee that the food can safely be eaten by people with an allergy or intolerance. If you can’t guarantee that cross-contamination won’t occur in your kitchen, you should avoid making ‘free-from’ claims.
Customers sometimes assume that vegan meals are completely free of animal-based products, like milk, eggs, or crustaceans – but cross-contamination that occurs during production can mean that this isn’t guaranteed. If this is the case, you must be clear about this possibility. Precautionary allergen labelling should only be used when there is a real risk involved – it shouldn’t be used as a substitute for good hygiene and safety practices.
Beyond Natasha’s Law: allergen labelling in the hospitality industry
Natasha’s Law will only directly affect food pre-packed for direct sale – but it’s a wake-up call for the entire hospitality industry to approach allergens with increased care and attention.
If you sell non-prepacked food – like meals at restaurants or loose items at a bakery or cafe – you need to provide allergen information with either:
- Full allergen information in a menu, information pack, or chalkboard
- A clearly visible sign telling customers how they can find allergen information
If you sell food online or by phone, you must provide allergen information at two stages:
- Before a customer buys your food, in writing (e.g. on your website or a menu) or orally (e.g. phone)
- When your customer receives the food, in writing (e.g. stickers or a menu) or orally (e.g. phone)
Digital menus with allergen-tagging
Making sure allergen information is accurate and easily accessible is a crucial part of keeping customers safe and fostering trust for food business operators.
Whether you sell food in-store or off-premises, a digital menu like StoreKit can help you protect your customers from allergens. StoreKit Order & Pay and StoreKit Takeaway offer complete allergen-tagging functionality to help you stay compliant with the Food Standards Agency’s regulations.
Unlike with paper menus or many third-party delivery platforms, a StoreKit menu makes it easy to update your menu in real-time when your recipe changes. Offering clear allergen information for each dish is also time-saving and avoids verbal miscommunications, as customers won’t have to go through a menu with a server to understand what they can eat.
FSA-compliant allergen-tagging is one of the reasons why a StoreKit menu might be a good fit for your food business – and if you’re looking to find out more about how mobile ordering can work for you, take a look at the articles below:
- Order & Pay for pubs and bars
- Order & Pay for restaurants
- Order & Pay for cafes and coffee shops
- Order & Pay as a room service menu
- Order & Pay for theatres
Natasha’s Law: what’s next?
Natasha’s Law will come into effect in October 2021, but businesses that haven’t already updated their labelling practices should do so as a priority to keep their customers safe.
Natasha’s Law won’t directly impact all food businesses – but it’s a much-needed nudge for all merchants to continuously review their allergen management. Communicating your commitment to allergen safety can help make the experience of eating out more stress-free, and is an important part of building customer trust.
The Food Standards Agency will continue providing guidance on the upcoming Natasha’s Law – make sure to stay updated on the latest information.