Full ingredient labelling that will be required under the new ‘Natasha’s law’ will be impractical and potentially hazardous, UKHospitality has warned.
The law will be announced by environment secretary Michael Gove today, tightening up the rules around food prepared and packed on premises to require operators to display a full list of ingredients.
It is named after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, the teenager who died after an allergic reaction to a Pret A Manger baguette.
Gove said: “These changes will make food labels clear and consistent and give the country’s two million food allergy sufferers confidence in making safe food choices.”
But UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls warned that the legislation, which will come into force by 2021, could be “unwieldy, difficult for some businesses to implement and potentially dangerous”.
She added: “We firmly believe the best way to raise awareness of allergens and keep customers safe is to promote an active dialogue between customers and businesses. That is why we recommended the promotion of voluntary labelling and encouraging customers to talk to the business and ask about ingredients and possible allergens. That way, we can build a relationship between consumers and team members that promotes mindfulness on both sides.”
Nicholls added that the labelling requirements would lead to less choice for customers as businesses struggle with the changes.
She said: “There is also a risk that the new measures, which will not circumvent cross-contamination and will be open to mislabelling, will only promote a dangerous reliance on labelling.”
Natasha’s Law follows a consultation in January which proposed four options: full ingredient list labelling; allergen-only labelling; ‘ask the staff’ labels on products; and promoting best practice to businesses.
Over 70% of those who responded backed full ingredient labelling. This option was also backed by the Food Standards Agency.
Food Standards Agency chair Heather Hancock said: “We want the UK to become the best place in the world for people living with food hypersensitivities.
“The impact of food allergy and intolerance on quality of life can be as great or even greater than almost all other foodborne diseases.
“While it’s impossible to eliminate the risks entirely, we believe this change will mean better protection for allergic consumers.”
A Pret A Manger spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the government has chosen to support full ingredient labelling. As part of Pret’s Allergy Plan, full ingredient labels are now in over 60 Pret shops as part of our nationwide rollout.”