Natasha's Law: New legislation introduced to protect food allergy sufferers

·4 min read

Watch: Natasha's Law: Parents of teenager who died after allergic reaction from Pret A Manger baguette welcome new food packaging law

The parents of a teenager who died after an allergic reaction to a Pret a Manger baguette have welcomed the introduction of a new food safety law.

Natasha's Law comes into force across the UK today, October 1, and will require all food retailers to display full ingredient and allergen labelling on every food item made on the premises and pre-packed for direct sale.

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, suffered a severe allergic reaction after unknowingly eating sesame contained in a baguette bought from a Pret a Manger outlet at Heathrow Airport.

The teenager died of anaphylaxis after collapsing on board a flight to Nice in July 2016.

Since then her parents, Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, have set up the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation and have campaigned tirelessly for a change in the law that would see ingredients clearly listed on all pre-packaged food.

Previously, non pre-packaged fresh food made on the premises did not need to be individually labelled with allergen or ingredient information.

Read more: ‘Cake crumbs almost killed my son’: Mum lives in constant fear for son with allergies

Today sees the introduction of Natasha's Law, which requires food businesses to provide full ingredient lists and allergen labelling on foods prepackaged for direct sale on the premises. (Getty Images)
Today sees the introduction of Natasha's Law, which requires food businesses to provide full ingredient lists and allergen labelling on foods prepackaged for direct sale on the premises. (Getty Images)

Commenting on the introduction of the new law, Mr Ednan-Laperouse said: “Natasha’s Law is vital to protect the two to three million people in the UK living with food allergies from life-threatening allergic reactions.

“It is about saving lives and marks a major milestone in our campaign to support people in this country with food allergies.

“This change in the law brings greater transparency about the foods people are buying and eating; it will give people with food allergies confidence when they are buying pre-packaged food for direct sale such as sandwiches and salads. Everyone should be able to consume food safely.”

The law could make a huge difference in the confidence those who suffer from allergies in purchasing pre-packed food. 

According to a survey by the Food Standards Agency, 60% of respondents with a food allergy reported they had avoided eating out in the previous six months because of their condition.

And only 14% reported feeling extremely confident asking for allergen information when eating out or ordering a takeaway/food online. The same number admitted to feeling not at all confident.

Watch: Myth children should be exposed to dirt to avoid allergy risk has been busted. 

The legislation was introduced following a consultation about full ingredients labelling, which received overwhelming support, with more than 70% agreeing it was a good idea.

While allergies to dairy and nuts are well known, according to the UK’s Food Regulations 2014, there are 14 ingredients that businesses need to let customers know about if they are used in food.

Each could cause an allergic reaction to people who consume them.

Recent stats from the Food Standards Agency have revealed that there are 4,500 UK hospital admissions a year from food allergy and 10 food allergy deaths per year.

The figures also reveal that one in four say they or a relative have had a reaction eating out and 8% of children and 2% of adults are affected by allergies or intolerance.

Natasha's parents said their daughter would be "very proud" of the new regulations.

"Today we really feel like we've achieved it and it feels really special," Ms Ednan-Laperouse, told BBC Breakfast.

Read more: What to do if your child goes into anaphylactic shock

Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, have campaigned tirelessly for a campaign in the law, pictured in April 2017. (Getty Images)
Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, have campaigned tirelessly for a campaign in the law, pictured in April 2017. (Getty Images)

But the couple are keen to help further improve things for allergy sufferers and have set up a parliamentary petition online calling for an allergy tsar as a "matter of life and death".

"This is not what a great British nation should accept, that young people can die in this day and age because of the food they eat, when all it takes is more joined-up thinking to better protect them," Mr Ednan-Laperouse said.

Read more: The surprising foods on the 14 top allergens list

Commenting on the introduction of the new food law, Food Standards Agency chief executive Emily Miles said: “If these changes drive down the number of hospital admissions caused by food allergies, which have seen a threefold increase over the last 20 years, and prevent further tragic deaths such as Natasha’s, that can only be a positive thing.

“I understand how difficult the past 18 months have been for food businesses, and I am grateful for the effort that so many have made to prepare for the changes and enable people to make safe decisions about the food they eat.”

For more information, visit: food.gov.uk/allergy or nhs.uk/conditions/allergies

The BDA has a “Coping with food allergies” food fact sheet and an Allergies and Food Intolerances food fact sheet which provides information for those with food allergies.

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