What Natasha’s Law means for small business bakers and cake makers

New food labelling regulations – known as Natasha’s Law – are coming into force in England on 1 October 2021, to improve how food allergens are highlighted to protect consumers with allergies. 

Major food manufacturers and retailers have been preparing for Natasha’s Law for some time, but there is concern that smaller, independent businesses have been left out of the loop.  

This could mean that some aren’t sure if or how Natasha’s Law may affect them, or how they’re going to make sure that they’re compliant.

Natasha’s Law: the background

In 2016, teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who was allergic to sesame, died after eating a shop-bought baguette that did not mention sesame as an ingredient on its label.

Natasha was one of an estimated two million people in the UK with a diagnosed food allergy, and her death was the catalyst for calls for improved food allergen labelling to prevent such tragic events from occurring in future.

This led to changes in food labelling regulations – Natasha’s Law – which comes into force in  October.  From then, Full Ingredients labels including the 14 food allergens will need to be clearly labelled on pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) products.  

These allergens are: celery, cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, lupin, milk, molluscs, mustard, peanuts, sesame, soybeans, sulphur dioxide and sulphites (if at a concentration of more than ten parts per million) and tree nuts.

How Natasha’s Law applies to small business bakers

Natasha’s Law affects all businesses – big and small – that make and sell PPDS products.  Examples include cakes, biscuits and desserts and:

  • Foods packaged and then sold elsewhere by the producer, eg at a stall 

  • Free samples given to consumers that are pre-packed

  • PPDS food provided to schools, care homes or hospitals and other similar settings 

  • PPDS foods sold at fetes and charity events 

The main allergens that could be present in sweet treats are likely to be:

  • gluten

  • eggs

  • milk

  • peanuts and tree nuts

However, it’s important to be aware of all your ingredients, especially when using pre-made flours, mixes and fillings.

Specially-commissioned products

Many small business bakers take commissions for special occasions such as birthdays and weddings.  You do what you do because you make amazing cakes and bakes, but also because you want to give your clients and their guests a memorable, delicious experience.

Working directly with individuals, couples or wedding/party planners, you’re reliant on them to inform you of any food allergen risks amongst guests.  

Often, at the time they’re working with you to design their centrepiece, they may be unaware of allergen issues.  In terms of weddings, for example, it’s common for couples to only become aware of guest allergies after RSVPs have been received.

As they’re working with you to design their order, remind them to ask about guest food allergies in their invitations.  If the occasion is a more informal affair, like a birthday party, you can provide clients with a list of the potential allergens in their finished creation, so that they can make their guests aware.

How can I prepare my business for Natasha’s Law?

There are some grey areas as to exactly what is covered by PPDS, so the simplest way to ensure that you’re complying with Natasha’s Law is by having robust labelling information in place across all your products.  Then you can be sure that your clients have easy access to exactly what is in the food you’ve made and can make an informed choice as to whether it’s safe for them to eat.

But how does that work in practice for small businesses?  Many small business owners are concerned that compliance means either laborious, manual logging of all ingredients (which also raises the potential for errors), or prohibitively expensive technology or software solutions that were originally designed for big, commercial food businesses.

Solutions to make food labelling compliance easier

It’s perfectly acceptable to have handwritten labels, as long as they are legible and contain all the required information.  But that is time consuming and error prone.

The good news is that there are software and labelling systems available to make your food labelling processes more efficient, consistent, and importantly, more accurate.  And they don’t have to cost the earth.

With Allergen Checker, you can meet all your food labelling needs, from printed ingredient labels to menus, from less than £1 per day.

Contact us now for no-obligation advice on how we can help you and your business or sign up for a free 7-day trial.