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New law: New food labelling laws for retailers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from October 2021

Author: Atom Content Marketing

Published: 01 Jul 2021

Food retailers such as coffee shops and takeaways in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are preparing for new labelling law for ‘prepacked food for direct sale’ from 1 October 2021.

The new law – often called ‘Natasha’s Law’, after the teenager who died after suffering an allergic reaction to a Pret a Manger baguette – aims to protect allergy sufferers and give them confidence when buying certain prepacked food. It requires sellers of such food to display information about 14 specified allergens on the packaging when the new rules are in force.

Relevant packaging and/or labels will have to display clearly:

  • The name of the food.
  • A full list of ingredients, highlighting any of the allergenic ingredients by, for example, printing them in bold, a different colour, or italics.

Failure to comply is a criminal offence.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published guidance to help businesses prepare for the changes. It says that prepacked food for direct sale means food:

  • which is presented to the final consumer already packaged;
  • packaging for which completely or partially encloses the item so that the contents cannot be altered without opening or changing it;
  • packaging which is applied before the customer orders the item; and
  • that was packed by the business selling it.

Examples of prepacked food for direct sale given by the FSA include:

  • A sandwich or bakery product packed on site before a customer selects or orders it.
  • Fast food packed before it is ordered, such as a burger under a hot lamp where the food cannot be altered without opening the packaging.
  • A product prepacked on site ready for sale, such as cheese or a salad box in a deli, or a pizza or rotisserie chicken in a supermarket.
  • A burger or sausage prepacked on the premises ready for sale to consumers by a butcher.
  • Free samples of, eg, biscuits prepacked on site for customer to try.
  • Foods prepacked and then sold elsewhere by the same business, eg from a van or stall.

Prepacked food provided by schools, care homes, hospitals and the like can also be subject to the new law.

The guidance makes clear that food made to order, or packaged/wrapped at the customer’s request, is not included. Nor is food served ‘open’, such as on a cardboard tray, which can be altered without having to unwrap it.

The new law does not apply to food sold over the phone or internet – but note that different, stringent rules about the information to be given to customers also apply to such sales.

Operative date

  • October 2021

Recommendation

  • Businesses affected should identify changes required to food items prepacked for direct sale, order new stocks of packaging and train staff accordingly.
  • Read FSA guidance to help food businesses understand the new labelling requirements.
Disclaimer

This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.

Copyright © Atom Content Marketing

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Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.