Janet Kearsley // Head Cook
A registered charity serving people across the Wigan area
How a Lancashire hospice is rising to the challenge of Natasha’s Law
The implementation of Natasha’s Law to improve food allergen labelling on pre-packed snacks was widely welcomed as a positive step to prevent future fatalities and help allergy sufferers make more informed choices.
For charities, the challenge has been how to implement the new rules cost-effectively and easily. Many operate with small, multi-tasking teams, already working at full capacity.
Wigan and Leigh Hospice
Wigan and Leigh Hospice is a registered charity serving people across the Wigan area who’ve been diagnosed with a non-curable illness. Every day, 365 days a year, they offer a supportive, caring approach to both patients and their relatives.
Around two-thirds of its funding comes from charitable giving including donations, fundraising and legacies.
Its staff are passionate about providing care suited to every patient’s unique needs.
Catering for patients with a range of medical and dietary needs at any one time, Head Cook, Janet Kearsley, is proud of the tailored service the hospice gives to people in their care: “We have to deal with lots of different diets, for example for patients with difficulty swallowing, as well as some patients whose diets are relatively ‘normal’.”
Here, Janet talks about their experience of getting to grips with Natasha’s Law.
Food allergy awareness and preparing for Natasha’s Law
Fortunately, Wigan and Leigh Hospice is part of a group of hospice caterers in northwest England, so training and legislative information about food allergies can be shared easily.
“A lot of the hospices are linked to use the same supplier”, Janet says, “and they offered us free training about food allergens at their head office is, so we knew Natasha’s Law was coming.
Finding a food allergy labelling solution
The COVID-19 pandemic threw many food businesses’ Natasha’s Law plans into disarray. As the start date of Natasha’s Law drew closer, Janet and her boss agreed that they’d buy in a solution, and Janet reached out to her network for recommendations.
“With staffing issues, we didn’t have a lot of time to research”, says Janet. “I asked the caterers group, and they came up with a website and we found Allergen Checker.”
Allergen Checker free trial
“The free trial was brilliant because you've got a taste for what it's about,” says Janet.
“It was quite simple. The hardest thing was putting the information, but once you’ve done it, a lot of the hard work is done.
“I got quite a lot done because I did it over a few days, and the trial hadn't run out.”
Janet’s only concern was that she might lose the work she’d done when the free trial ended, but Allergen Checker founder, Mark Morgan-Huntley, put her mind at rest and they signed up to use it going forward.
Easy to use
Describing herself as “not very good with computers”, Janet was apprehensive about using new software, especially for something that, by law, needed to be right.
“When I logged on, I was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was and how easy it is.
“And I was really surprised that, when I got into it, I quite enjoyed it. I know it's a bit sad that I enjoyed it!”
Getting to grips with Allergen Checker
As well as serving patients, the hospice has a small café area selling freshly-made sandwiches, salads and cakes alongside chocolate, crisps and hot and cold drinks.
Janet says that it’s a welcome resource for relatives and staff alike: “Relatives can go in there and get a can of pop, and sandwich and have a bit of time out.
“It wasn’t open during the pandemic but we still provided snacks for staff.”
Janet began by setting up labels for their pre-packed sandwiches, salads and cheese and biscuits: “I started by writing a list of all the sandwiches, we do, all the variations.”
But she then ran into a problem that a lot of businesses are currently facing: supply chain issues.
“We inputted our bread, which we’ve never had a supply issue with – but then as soon as Natasha's Law comes out, we've got a supply issue with it!”
Janet now has all her bread bases covered in Allergen Checker: “As well as our usual bread from our specialist supplier, we’ve uploaded ingredient information for some big bread brands that we would be able to get from the supermarket in case we need to use that if we can’t get a delivery.”
Janet’s looking forward to exploring the menu printing options included with Allergen Checker.
She’ll also be getting more of the team trained up to use Allergen Checker and is looking forward to the café getting busier: “I hate waste. When we make cakes for patients on the ward it’s always a guess as to how many will be needed.
“With Allergen Checker, we’ll be able to prepack and label any surplus to sell in the café – which raises a bit of money as well.”
Saving money is also important, of course, and Janet (and her boss!) were pleased with Allergen Checker’s value for money: “I spoke to someone at another hospice and what they were using for labelling was quite pricey – and a bit of a nightmare to use – so I’m really glad we found Allergen Checker.
“I was really dreading getting everything ready for Natasha’s Law, but it's made it a lot easier.”
To find out more about Wigan and Leigh Hospice, or to donate, visit: