Natasha’s Law is here: now what?
Natasha’s Law – brought in to protect food allergy sufferers with better allergen labelling on pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) food products – came into force on 1 October 2021.
However, the media coverage of its arrival was more of a whimper than a bang. The fuel crisis, debates around trust in policing, motorway protests by environmentalists, and the shortage of HGV drivers were all clamouring for column inches.
Even more concerning, are figures showing that only weeks before, a huge number of business owners that would be affected by Natasha’s Law either weren’t aware of the new regulations or weren’t sure what to do about them.
Allergen Checker founder and professional chef, Mark Morgan-Huntley, shares the frustration of many in the hospitality and catering industries: that not enough is being done to make small businesses aware of Natasha’s Law and how they can stay compliant.
“Natasha’s Law was launched only recently, with little to no media coverage”, he says, “and it’s my strong belief that the people who really need to know about this huge change to the way you label your sandwiches and cakes etc, really don’t know about it.
“Surely this is a major change to the law and the Food Standards Agency should be doing more to promote a safe way to sell your food to your customers?
“I don’t think that anywhere near enough has been done to make small or ‘hobby’ businesses owners aware of the new regulations, how it affects their products and what they can do to ensure compliance.”
It was back in 2013, way before many of the food labelling regulations we see today came into force, that Mark first saw a problem: “I stood in a kitchen unsure how the average business owner or chef would be able to show to their customers what allergens were in the food that they were selling.
“Most of us in the industry agree that allergen labelling is a good thing – but what’s less clear is how to actually do it easily, accurately and consistently.”
Improvised, DIY options for labelling can leave even the best-intentioned food producers and retailers open to errors and falling foul of the law, not to mention causing a customer to have a potentially fatal allergic reaction.
Trying to handle allergen labelling manually is also extremely time-consuming. Mark recently ran a survey across his social media platforms to discover what people valued more: time or money: “The results were very clear: time was more important with an overwhelming majority of 96%.
“This cemented my belief from all those years ago, that specially-designed software would be key: saving you time so you can focus on talking to your happy customers, rather than spending time writing annoying labels to stick on your sandwiches.”
Fast-forward eight years, and those first thoughts have become Allergen Checker, a super easy to use, comprehensive software solution to help business owners tell customers exactly what they’re buying.
Mark explains: “Allergen Checker gives you the ability to record every single ingredient in your kitchen, regardless of the company you buy it from or the branding.
“As long as you add all the ingredients and attach the correct allergens, then from that point on it is easy to create dishes, products and even menus that accurately highlight any allergens, and will ensure that you’re compliant with Natasha’s Law.”
The thought of having to buy specialist software can make some business owners worry about complicated technology or additional expense after what has been an incredibly tough couple of years.
Mark believes he’s come up with the perfect solution in Allergen Checker: “It’s very portable, it’s all online, with many additional features like cloning dishes & creating QR codes for menus, but relevant to today’s menu, not just a big list of everything you sell that a customer has to sift through.
“We’ve made the cost as affordable as possible: for less than £1 per day, you have peace of mind that your products are labelled correctly to keep your customers safe and your brand intact.
“Nobody wants to harm anyone.”
With a long career in the hospitality industry, Mark understands first-hand the challenges that regulations such as Natasha’s Law mean for food businesses. He says: “I’ve been in the same situation as these business owners and am always happy to help, even if they’re not sure if Natasha’s Law applies to them.
“We also offer free trials of Allergen Checker so that people can see how it will help their business and give them time to focus on being able to do what they do best: serve great food to happy customers.