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Government pushes for tougher labelling on food allergies

An estimated two million people in the UK have a food allergy.

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.

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Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, from Fulham, west London, who died after she fell ill on a flight from London to Nice after eating a sandwich at Heathrow Airport (Family/PA Images)

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 follow 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.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said he wanted to ensure food labels were clearer and rules for businesses more consistent.

He added: “Natasha’s parents have suffered a terrible loss, and I want to pay tribute to Nadim and Tanya for their inspirational work to deliver Natasha’s law.

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Environment Secretary Michael Gove (Stefan Rousseau/PA Images)

“We want to ensure that labels are clearer and that the rules for businesses are more consistent – so that allergy sufferers in this country can have confidence in the safety of their food.

“Many businesses are already bringing changes on board independently, and in the meantime they should continue doing all they can to give consumers the information they need.”

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.

The department 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.

Proposals include mandating full ingredient listing , allergen-only labelling, “ask the staff” labels on all products, or promoting “best practice around communicating allergen information to consumers”.

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.

In a statement issued by solicitors Leigh Day, her parents Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse welcomed the consultation.

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Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, the parents of 15-year-old Natasha who died after eating a Pret A Manger sandwich (Stefan Rousseau/PA Images)

They added: “It is now vital that the industry seizes the opportunity to support Natasha’s Law.

“For too long, food producers and retailers have been playing Russian Roulette with people’s lives.

“If you sell allergens, which to many people can be poisons, you should have a public, moral and legal duty to inform customers.

“There must be no backsliding where profits are put before safety.

“Full and transparent labelling for allergen sufferers is the key to giving people the information they need to stay safe.

“Anything less cannot be a law in Natasha’s name.

“It shouldn’t be too much to ask so that other families don’t have to go through the unbearable grief that we will always endure.”

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.

Press Association

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