Charles Russell Speechlys is one of the leading legal advisers to the food and beverage sector.
Our work in the sector includes allergen protocol reviews, crisis management and supporting businesses as they tackle the latest requirements for allergen labelling.
Allergen Labelling Requirements post October 2019
In March 2019, following a number of high profile inquests, including the inquest into the tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse who died from eating a sesame baguette, it was announced that legislation would be introduced to mandate full ingredient and allergen labelling on ‘food prepacked for direct sale’. Essentially, this term covers all food which is packaged on-site before a consumer (which includes pupils and care residents) selects or orders it. Currently, allergen information for these items can be provided orally (or via an allergen chart which enable residents, family members and other carers to see full ingredients lists).
The new legislation, known as ‘Natasha’s Law’ will come into effect on 1 October 2021. This means that businesses have a transition period of just over a year to become compliant. In June 2020, the Food Standards Agency released Technical Guidance on the implementation of Natasha’s Law, which is intended to help businesses understand the new requirements and work towards implementing them next year.
Best Practice Allergens Protocols
Whilst allergens labelling is currently at the forefront of the agenda, it is important to note that labelling is only a single part of what needs to be a fully developed inter-linking allergens protocol that addresses not only notices and signage but also training and staff protocols, kitchen processes, incident management and supply chain management. Institutional caterers have to cater to the needs of a large number of different people. Therefore, they need to be able to demonstrate that they have these measures in place to give residents, family members and children the best information and ensure that cross-contamination does not occur.
Any pre-existing food allergies and intolerances should be made known when residents and / or children first join and should be clearly communicated to those serving the food. This is particularly important if the individual is unable or needs help to make safe food choices for themselves. Further, in care homes there must be a ‘care record’ outlining the resident’s dietary needs, and in schools, there must be practices (such as coloured wristbands) to identify children with allergies and intolerances.
How can we help?
We are already advising a range of businesses on the impact of the legislation changes and on their allergen protocols. With our experience of handling matters where incidents have occurred and where systems in place have been tested, we are uniquely able to review current allergen protocols and to make recommendations to mitigate risk against potential exposure and failings.
We would be happy to have an initial free of charge call (approx. 30 mins) to talk through your existing policies and the practical steps of putting the new requirements into practice. Following that call, we can provide you with a fee proposal for a detailed review of the following in the context of allergen information and protocols:
- presentation regarding menus and allergen information;
- ordering processes and record keeping;
- kitchen protocols;
- training procedures, guidance and policies for staff; and
- an overview consideration of supply arrangements and ordering process.
As part of the review, we can also visit one of your locations to walk through the existing processes and to contextualise our review of the policies and systems in place (or needed). Our review would conclude in a report which will detail recommendations to existing practices and procedures.