Important Changes to Allergen Information Labelling and Food Safety Law
As a result of the tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died in 2016 following an allergic reaction to a pre-packaged baguette, the law (known as ‘Natasha’s Law’ with respect to the labelling of food which is Pre-Packaged for Direct Sale (“PPDS”) is set to change drastically from 1 October 2021.
What is PPDS food?
The new law provides that a food is classed as ‘PPDS’ where it is packaged at the same place it is offered or sold to a consumer, where this food is packaged before it is ordered.
For example, the categorisation of PPDS food can include:
- Sandwiches and baguettes which are pre-made by a café and packaged ready to be sold to a customer
- Pizzas and other fast food items such as burgers/hot dogs which are prepared in advance by an outlet and kept packaged and ready for sale (for example, under a hot lamp)
- Cakes, pastries, sausage rolls etc produced by a bakery and packaged on-site ready to be sold to customers
- Any foodstuff packaged by a company on-site and subsequently sold by the same company at a different, mobile location
The definition of PPDS food applies to the food, not the business, and so even if the PPDS food is given away without charge or for free (for example, as a free sample), or is provided as part of a general catering contract for schools/care homes etc, the new regulations with respect to PPDS foods will still apply.
One-off occasions such as the selling of cakes at a village fete will not necessarily engage the new regulations surrounding PPDS food, however the Food Standards Agency published a comprehensive guide covering this scenario and advising that allergen information should still be provided as best practice.
What information do I need to provide?
PPDS foods sold must show on the packaging, at least the name of the food contained within the packaging, and the ingredients list of the food, with emphasis placed on any ingredients which contain any of the 14 allergens (usually by showing the allergen in bold type within the ingredients list).
The Food Standards Agency has published a helpful guide showing the 14 allergens and the best practice for labelling.
Takeaways and Deliveries
The new regulations do not apply to PPDS foods sold remotely (either by telephone, or ordered over the internet), however these PPDS foods are still subject to general regulations surrounding allergen information.
Accordingly, although the food packaging will not need to display a label as outlined above, businesses dealing in remote ordering must still ensure that adequate allergen information is provided both before purchase (either in writing on a menu, or on a website, or by speaking to a member of staff who is adequately trained to explain the allergen information), and at the time of delivery (either in writing with stickers/labels, with a copy of the menu containing allergen information enclosed with the delivery, or by a member of staff explaining the allergen information).
Further, each takeaway dish within an order should be labelled clearly so that customers know which dish is which, and therefore whether a particular box/carton/package is suitable for those with a particular allergy.
If your business fails to comply with the new regulations in force from 1 October 2021, the Local Authority and/or the Food Standards Agency can take regulatory action against your business for non-compliance, which can include financial penalties as well as the reputational damage to your business of a food safety prosecution.
Further, in the event of a serious breach which subsequently causes a customer to suffer injury or death as a consequence of an allergic reaction to an unlabeled PPDS food, further criminal sanctions and addition personal injury claims could be substantial.
Accordingly, it is therefore vital to ensure that all foods produced by your business (either PPDS foods or otherwise) are correctly labelled where appropriate and that adequate and compliant allergen information is provided. Specialist legal advice is often the most effective way of ensuring compliance with the myriad of regulatory frameworks governing this area of Food Safety.
How can we help?
Our specialist team of Regulatory Solicitors are experienced in advising businesses in all aspects of food safety and food hygiene law, including not only advice and bespoke training to help avoid any potential legal issues, but also representation in the event of criminal or civil proceedings against you and/or your business for breaches of Food Safety law.
For further information, or to discuss your business’ requirements with one of our specialist regulatory solicitors, call 01202 525333 or contact us by email.