Government pushes for tougher labelling on food to protect two million UK food allergy sufferers

The Government has set out new proposals to toughen food labelling laws and protect the two million food allergy sufferers across the country.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has launched a consultation into food labelling laws focusing on overhauling the labelling of pre-prepared foods such as sandwiches and salads which are made, packaged and sold in the same stores.

Under current rules food prepared on the premises in which it is sold is not required to display allergen information on the package, Defra said.

But under the proposed reforms, published on Friday, food outlets selling pre-packaged food directly for sale could be required to follow new rules, including making full ingredients labelling required by law.

Miss Ednan-Laperouse died in 2016 following an allergic reaction to sesame in a baguette from Pret A Manger. Credit: Press Association

Defra is urging businesses and allergy suffers to have their say on four options being put forward to change the way allergy advice is provided on these foods.

  • Promote best practice (no change in law)

  • Add “ask the staff” stickers to packaging, staff would have to provide information orally and in writing if asked

  • Label food with the name of the food and list allergens

  • Label food with name of food, full ingredients list and with allergens emphasised

The department said the consultation was designed to give the UK’s two million food allergy sufferers greater confidence in the safety of their food.

The move follows the death of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse who died after suffering an allergic reaction to a Pret A Manger baguette.

Her parents have been calling for a new so-called “Natasha’s Law” to make all pre-packaged food to clearly show allergens.

Among the options in the consultation, option four details the biggest overhaul of current practice in the industry.

It requires businesses list every ingredient and allergen in pre-prepared foods.

Michael Gove meeting with Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse to discuss Natasha's law.

Describing the significance of option four Environment Secretary Michael Gove told ITV News: "I think the more information the better."

He added: "There'll be some voices that argue for the status quo but the evidence seems to be already in overwhelming favour for the maximum amount of information."

Explaining the speed at which the consultation was moving he said Miss Ednan-Laperouse's parents' "amazing dignity" in the face of unspeakable tragedy" had moved him.

He met with Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse to hear their thoughts on Natasha's law and the changes they want to see within the food industry.

The proposed reforms cover labelling requirements for foods that are packed on the same premises from which they are sold – such as a packaged sandwich or salad made by staff earlier in the day and placed on a shelf for purchase.

Currently, these foods are not required to carry labels, and information on allergens can be given in person by the food business if asked by the customer.

Miss Ednan-Laperouse died in 2016 following an allergic reaction to sesame in a baguette from Pret A Manger. The ingredient was not listed on the label.

Natasha's parents Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse welcomed the consultation.

They told ITV News their meeting with Mr Gove had gone "really well".

"He's lined up his wishes for what he wants Natasha's law to be, for the outcome of the consultation [and it], is pretty much in line with what we're looking for," they said.

Speaking in favour of option four on the consultation, they are hoping the industry will do the "right thing".

They told ITV News: "We will not have her name put against something that is weak and pointless and doesn't save lives.

"She died and paid the ultimate price and that cost is dear to us and extremely dear to her, she's no longer here and something that's attached to her name must be something greater, something more positive, something to save lives."

Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, with their son Alex holding a photograph of his sister Natasha. Credit: PA

Allergy UK chief executive Carla Jones also welcomed the announcement and said the food industry needed to do “more than just the bare minimum” when catering for the allergic community.

The consultation on proposed amendments to the domestic Food Information Regulations 2014 will run for nine weeks.