Ask Arena: Natasha's Law

Understanding the Implications for Foodservice and Hospitality

From 1st October, The UK Food Information Amendment, also known as ‘Natasha’s Law’, will require food businesses to provide full ingredient lists and allergen labelling on all foods pre-packaged for direct sale on the premises.  The legislation is being introduced to ensure that consumers and in particular those with allergies, can clearly see what is in the food they buy but what are the implications for the supply chain and its customers and how do you ensure you are compliant? 

The Ask Arena virtual event ‘Natasha’s Law – Understanding The Implications for Foodservice and Hospitality’, sponsored by Nutritics, explored these questions for you. A panel of experts from across the industry discussed how Natasha’s Law is affecting food manufacturers, wholesalers, contract caterers and hospitality/leisure operators, how these different areas of the industry are planning for Natasha’s Law and how the supply chain can work together to ensure they are compliant. Read on to find out more...

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Event Review

By Lorraine Wood, Director, Arena

As the hospitality industry slowly but steadily reopens and starts its recovery from Covid-19, there are, as always, other pressing matters afoot. The deadline for the implementation of Natasha’s Law sits on the very near horizon, and attention must be focused on compliance by the deadline of 1 October 2021.

It’s a significant and complex undertaking for the whole industry, so Ask Arena brought together a panel of experts to explore ‘Natasha’s Law: Understanding the Implications for Foodservice and Hospitality’, sponsored by Nutritics.

With a responsibility for implementing Natasha’s law in their respective businesses, covering the hospitality and leisure, contract catering, manufacturing and information and labelling software sectors, our panellists provided a fascinating discussion that looked at the challenges and gave an insight into the steps they’re taking to ensure compliance.

A huge thank you to our panellists for giving their valuable time and expertise: Anna Watson, Group Food Safety Manager, Merlin Entertainments Plc, Julia Hayes, Nutritionist, Thomas Franks, Richard Vaughan, Group Compliance Director, Delifrance and Clare Stead, Senior Business Development Manager, Nutritics. And, I also thank Anita Murray, CEO of William Murray PR & Marketing, for steering the discussion so brilliantly.

If you missed it, the recording is available here for you to watch at your leisure. Given the enormity and complexity of the subject, I strongly encourage you to take the time to listen to the discussion and advice shared. In the meantime, here are my key take-outs of what I believe to be a most valuable, worthwhile session.

Natasha’s Law, the context…

Natasha’s law is largely the result of a campaign by the parents of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, age 15, who tragically died from a severe allergic reaction to a pre-packaged baguette that contained sesame seeds but with no indication that this ingredient was included in the product.

From 1st October 2021, The UK Food Information Amendment, also known as ‘Natasha’s Law’, will require food businesses to provide full ingredient lists and allergen labelling on all foods pre-packaged for direct sale on the premises.

The legislation is being introduced to ensure that consumers and in particular those with allergies, can clearly see what is in the food they buy.

Given the statistic that in the UK two million people have been diagnosed with an allergy to food and this number is growing, and the fact that food allergies can be fatal, Natasha’s Law is important. But the reality is, it comes with a host of complex implications for our industry.

It affects us all…

From raw ingredients to sale to the consumer, the entire supply chain is impacted by Natasha’s Law. Here are some of the challenges that our panellists highlighted:

  • Understanding exactly Natasha’s Law is and what products it applies to.
  • Managing the requirements of multiple food outlets.
  • Engaging on-site teams: some chefs may resist working with centralised recipes if it’s not what they’re used to.
  • Labelling requirements: from the amount of information needed to formatting.
  • The technical guidance: it’s complex and potentially open to interpretation.
  • Investment needed: in resource, time and money.
  • Ensuring compliance throughout the supply chain: especially if using small, local suppliers who may not have software systems in place.
  • Training needs: a system is only as good as the people operating it.
  • Transparency and trust throughout the supply chain.

The bottom line is that food allergies can be fatal and access to ingredient and nutrition information throughout the supply chain is necessary to manage this risk. There are an estimated ten deaths a year in the UK caused by the consumer not knowing what’s in the food they’re eating, so this information is powerful and must be available to everyone.

Making sure the right label gets on the right box…

With a plethora of processes to put in place to ensure compliance, here’s what we should all be taking notice of to make sure the right label gets on the right box:

  • It’s really important to understand the legislation and therefore your responsibilities.
  • Take a systematic approach: identify all the foods impacted by Natasha’s Law and explore if any changes can be made to take them out of scope. And look at IT systems too, to see what you have already and what you need.
  • Get a working party together: invite all stake holders across the departments to ensure everyone is informed and engaged and understands Natasha’s Law and the implications.
  • Streamline: review procedures, ingredients and suppliers to support compliance and remove unnecessary allergens and complexities.
  • Work with a technology partner: Investment with right partner will enable quick and easy compliance by supporting the process from stock to shelf.
  • Training: Covid has been a stark reminder of how quickly things can be forgotten, so regular training is essential.
  • Communication: keep everyone informed, engaged and focused.
  • Future proofing: Natasha’s Law is the immediate concern but think ahead and be prepared in advance for more coming down the track.
  • Consistently challenge yourself and your supplier partners.
  • Work together as an industry and draw on the support available.
  • Trust: this is needed throughout the supply chain. Think of it as a baton being passed down the chain – from raw ingredients to manufacturers, wholesalers and operators. We all have responsibility to provide the right, accurate information.

And action!

Businesses are, understandably at different stages of being ready for Natasha’s Law. The pandemic put a spanner in the works as a lack of staff or resources, in some cases, wrote off the last year. But the good news is, it’s not too late to be ready and it doesn’t have to be as daunting as it may first seem.

It’s fair to say though, that with just four months to go, now is the time to act if you haven’t already. Here’s Nutritics’ top tips for getting started:

  • Identify what you have in place and where any potential gaps may be.
  • Do you have all of your suppliers and ingredients recorded?
  • Do you have printers in all locations needed?
  • It’s not too early to start training staff. They need to understand why it’s needed, the implications and what it will mean for them day to day.
  • Seek expert support – you’re not in this alone.

The in-depth discussion, unsurprisingly, provoked a number of questions from the audience. Topics raised included disclaimers in restaurants, removing items from products on request, staff meals, the role of the wholesaler, the impact on local and small suppliers and how suppliers can best support operators.

When asked to give one piece of advice to companies planning for Natasha’s law, the clear message from the panel was; start now, use the support available, communicate and never lose sight of the objective of compliance.


Our Speakers

Julia Hayes, Nutritionist, Thomas Franks

Julia is a Freelance Nutrition Consultant, who has worked with Thomas Franks Ltd, a contract caterer in the education and corporate sectors, for over 8 years. She was responsible for introducing the Food Information Regulations across the business in 2014 and managed the introduction of gluten free accreditation with Coeliac UK, making the business the first contract caterer to hold this award. Julia has worked with Nutritics for several years and is currently introducing their recipe development software to Thomas Franks in preparation for the changes around Natasha’s Law in October 2021. Julia is a member of the Association for Nutrition and is registered on the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKRVN).

Richard Vaughan, Group Compliance Director, Delifrance 

Richard has been working in food manufacturing - within the quality / technical field - for over 20 years and has experience within fresh and cured meats, ready meals, ready to eat products and most recently bakery.   Richard has worked with a large number of customers within the retail and food service sectors; both nationally and now internationally.    

Richard’s career started as a graduate trainee and he has held various Quality and Technical manager roles and after joining Delifrance in 2012 was appointed to the Group Compliance Director role in 2019.  As part of this role Richard, and his team, work to ensure that their products are compliant to the relevant laws for the sales country and are constantly monitoring regulation and legislation updates to ensure that they are aware of any potential changes and take relevant action to ensure that they are implemented within the required timeframes.  

Anna Watson, Group Food Safety Manager, Merlin Entertainments

With a background in Food Science, Anna has been advising and supporting catering businesses in food safety and health and safety for over 30 years, having worked in enforcement, consultancy and the private sector.

Following 10 years in the Food Safety section of the Environmental Health Department at LB Enfield, Anna was keen to use her food safety experience to help catering businesses and moved to working in consultancy for 3 different companies. She then progressed to Food Safety Manager roles in the private sector for businesses including Hilton UK, Elior, Delaware North at Wembley Stadium, Brownsword Hotels, and finally at Merlin.

Anna is now delighted to be part of a fantastic Health Safety and Security team, supporting the F+B operations globally, in around 80 Merlin attractions. Having been restricted to the UK for the last year, Anna has been working closely with the HSS team to develop Covid control procedures for all Merlin attractions.

Since January Anna has been chairing the Merlin Allergen Working Party to ensure Merlin UK attractions comply with Natasha’s Law by 1st October. The Working Party has recently agreed that Nutritics software will be used by attractions to ensure that PPDS foods are correctly labelled. Now the hard work starts to ensure full integration and implementation within existing allergen management processes. 

Anna is also a member of the UKHospitality Food Experts Group.

Clare Stead, Senior UK Business Development Manager, Nutritics

Clare Stead has over 10-years experience working across the hospitality, leisure, education, and healthcare sectors demonstrating how technology streamlines business processes, increases profitability, and mitigates risk.

Currently Clare is working heavily with food service operators in helping them to understand the upcoming changes of the UK Food Information Amendment (Natasha's Law) and consulting on how to effectively roll out solutions to support the new food labelling legislation. Clare is passionate in demonstrating how food information can be made more accessible and valuable via the implementation of technology that supports businesses now and into the future.

Anita Murray, CEO, William Murray PR & Marketing

For 30 years, Anita has been helping firms be even more successful by getting them to think and act differently to get great results.

Anita's worked with organisations across retail and hospitality including Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA), Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Pure South (New Zealand Lamb), Kraft Heinz, Kiddylicious, Unilever, Bidfood, Arla and BRITA. Under her leadership, William Murray has become a highly respected name within the food and drink industry.

Anita is one of the Top 150 Women in Food, Drink & Hospitality (People 1st), an Inspiration Award for Women winner, a member of the Food Innovation Network, a judge for PR and food industry awards and facilitator for food industry events/webinars. Her passion for supporting the food & drink industry extends to mentoring and her work with charities, including The Springboard Charity.