Hospitality trade groups have hit out at a new law that will make full ingredients labelling on all pre-packaged foods mandatory.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced that the new legislation, known as ‘Natasha’s Law’, would tighten rules by requiring foods pre-packed directly for sale, such as sandwiches, to carry a full list of ingredients.
Currently, food prepared on the premises in which it is sold is not required to display allergen information in writing.
The new law, due to be introduced by the end of the summer, follows the death of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died after suffering an allergic reaction to sesame used in the dough of a Pret A Manger baguette.
Natasha’s parents Tanya and Nadim welcomed its introduction: “While Natasha’s Law comes too late to save our beloved daughter, we believe that helping to save other allergy sufferers and their families from the enduring agony that we will always bear is a fitting legacy for her life.”
The law, which follows consultation with industry and consumers, has also been supported by the Food Standards Agency and Allergy UK.
However, the legislation has been branded as potentially dangerous by the British Sandwich Association (BSA) and UK Hospitality, which both raised concerns about the potential for cross-contamination.
“We believe this will result in more danger to consumers with allergies rather than less, as there is always going to be a risk of cross-contamination in food businesses with small kitchen areas,” said BSA director Jim Winship.
He added that small food businesses rarely had the technical knowledge to be able to provide the detail required to comply with full labelling requirements, and that many were worried about the risks involved and costs in meeting these new requirements.
UK Hospitality branded the law a “retrograde step”.
“We take the matter very seriously and maintain high standards, but are worried this new legislation could be unwieldy, difficult for some businesses to implement and potentially dangerous,” it stated.
“We firmly believe the best way to raise awareness of allergens and keep customers safe is to promote an active dialogue between customers and businesses. That is why we recommended the promotion of voluntary labelling and encouraging customers to talk to the business and ask about ingredients and possible allergens.”
UK Hospitality also raised concerns about the impact on small businesses, and that the law could reduce choice for consumers.
“There is a risk that the new measures, which will not circumvent cross-contamination and will be open to mislabelling, will only promote a dangerous reliance on labelling.”