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Nine out of 10 businesses are aware of Natasha’s Law, but only 68% feel they have all the information they need to follow it, a new report by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has found.

Entitled ‘Evaluation of the implementation of prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) allergen labelling requirements’, the report explores the impact the law has had on businesses and consumers.

The law came into force in October 2021 following the tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse. Officially named the UK Food Information Amendment 2019, it requires businesses selling PPDS food to attach a label containing the name of the product and a full ingredients list to each individual item, with allergens emphasised within the list.

Nearly two years on, the FSA surveyed 900 food business operators (FBOs) across the UK alongside 1,809 consumers and reached out to all 398 local authorities (with feedback given from 124).

Half of the food business operators surveyed said the new labelling requirements had increased their costs, mostly due to investment in equipment or materials, as well as the time spent preparing and applying labels. While the most significant cost was the initial outlay for hardware and software, many reported that they continue to face higher costs although these did not pose an issue to the survival of the business.

A larger impact was reported when looking at business practices, as 81% of FBOs that sold PPDS food made changes to their operations as a result of the new legislation. Most commonly, this was applying precautionary allergen labelling and asking customers if they had allergies or intolerances at the point of sale.

Just over a quarter (26%) of businesses changed the foods that they sell, with 17% selling food that was previously PPDS as non-prepacked food, and 16% selling more food packaged by other firms.

Notably, 40% of people living with a food hypersensitivity surveyed said their lives have been improved – and the impact has been greater among younger people aged between 18 and 34 years than older adults aged 65-plus.

The FSA said it would ‘continue to monitor the impact of the allergen labelling law and local authorities will continue to make sure businesses are complying with it to keep people with food allergies safe’. It is also gathering evidence to inform proposals on how allergen information should be provided for non-prepacked food in the out of home sector.