Businesses in the catering industry may or may not know about a major change in food labelling regulations coming into force in the UK this autumn – and if you’re not aware, then you definitely need to keep reading!
From October, new legislation called ‘Natasha’s Law’ will require food businesses to provide full ingredient lists and allergen labelling on foods that are pre-packaged for direct sale on the premises (known as PPDS).
The new law is named after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died in 2016 following an allergic reaction to a shop-bought sandwich that had been prepared and packaged on site but did not include sesame seeds on its ingredients label – a product to which she knew she had a severe allergy. Under existing rules, food prepared on the premises in which it is sold does not have to display full allergen information in writing. The new requirements apply to PPDS items, which is food that is packaged onsite at the same premises where a customer then selects or orders it. This means that once Natasha’s Law comes into effect, every PPDS food item will need a label containing a full list of ingredients.
Janette Elliott, Co-director of Elliott Hygiene, said: “This is incredibly important legislation for food businesses that deal with PPDS items. It also marks a huge breakthrough for the millions of people in the UK who have food allergies, where eating the wrong thing can mean life or death, and it will give them a much stronger chance of avoiding potentially life-threatening ingredients.
“The new rules encourage sellers to take responsibility for ensuring their products don’t harm people, and it’s great to see a number of companies are already providing technical solutions such as easy-to-use labelling systems to help keep such businesses keep on the right side of Natasha’s Law.”
Non-compliance with the new rules could result in a business facing serious financial penalties, and potentially criminal prosecution, so it’s more important now than ever before that owners of organisations selling PPDS items identify and display all allergens and ingredients on their products.
One of the providers we work with, to supply food labelling solutions to our customers, is expert food safety company NCCO, who, like us, are aiming to raise awareness among those businesses that might not yet be fully prepared for what’s coming. We spoke to Gray Adams, from NCCO, about their DateCodeGenie® device, a fully-customisable system which offers a very clever solution to all your food labelling needs.
Correct and compliant labelling
“Awareness of Natasha’s Law is still very much in its infancy stage,” Gray explained, “People don’t really know a great deal about it, or what happened to Natasha in 2016. But we’ve been working on DateCodeGenie® for the past five years, with the aim of making it as easy as possible for businesses to tackle this new labelling requirement.
“We ultimately need to ensure that, in a kitchen, things are labelled correctly with accurate data. Nobody wants to be doing handwritten labels in the kitchen anymore. NCCO’s DateCodeGenie® has a range of devices – from a stainless steel, thermal printer to a portable tablet and stand-alone printer. No matter what a specific kitchen’s needs are, DateCodeGenie® has a solution. The system can do pretty much everything that a label would need to have if it was in a retail shop.
“Imagine a deli counter at a supermarket, the little labels on their olive pots will show their logo, their weight, the price, the product details, expiry date, and any allergens advice. And all of that information can be housed within DateCodeGenie®. If you had to handwrite that information on a two-inch square label, how long would that take? Probably at least five minutes.
“You may need hundreds of labels a day, which means suddenly you’re spending a chunk of each working day writing labels. Whereas DateCodeGenie® can print one label every second.”
Of course, time does need to be invested in inputting information about all your food items and dishes into the DateCodeGenie® system, but this is a one-off task, and it’s really easy to amend these details should the recipe change.
Gray said: “From the time saving point of view, it’s not just all about time, it’s about the cost, and how much that time is worth to your business. A one-year investment in the device should pay for itself in the labour time saved for your staff. Once you’ve bought the system, it’s yours, you manage it, and we help you with training and ongoing support. You’ll be able to build up quite a database to create a swift and efficient labelling solution.”
Using a system like DateCodeGenie® will:
- Save time and boost productivity – if you create just 50 labels a day, you will save 117 hours each year over handwritten labels
- Ensure food safety – automated labelling helps to create the consistency health inspectors require. Take the guesswork out of trying to read descriptions, preparation dates, expiration dates and other handwritten information, reducing the risk of serving unsafe food
- Diminish food waste – accurately-labelled food is more likely to be used before expiration and less likely to be thrown out
- Enhance accountability – you will know who prepped what label, when. You can update menus and control permissions from a single, central location.
Virtual information and ingredient store
The ingenious system has a number of added-value features that allow businesses to include additional information they display on their foodstuffs, beyond what’s required by the new regulations. For example, you can print out the micronutrient content of your dish, with data from calories through to cholesterol and saturated fats, as percentages. And there’s the capability to create a menu item from the DateCodeGenie® device itself, without having to download anything from your computer, which is useful in situations where you need a quick fix.
Labels are all two inches wide, can be printed in different lengths, and are either square, rectangular or round, with the smallest being two inches by one inch. Colour coding is also a useful option.
Gray added: “The label sizing is versatile so there’s something suitable for all kinds of product, such as back-of-house prep work, salad or fruit pots, takeaway tubs, and front-of-house grab-and-go.”
So, when labelling pre-packaged food for direct sale, remember:
- Show the name of the food
- List the ingredients in volume order
- Within the ingredients list, highlight any of the *allergens listed below, for example by putting them in bold text
- You’ll find more information on NCCO and DateCodeGenie® here.
* The 14 regulated allergens are:
- Cereals containing gluten (oats and barley)
- Crustaceans (crabs, lobster, prawns)
- Molluscs (oysters and mussels)
- Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (for concentrations above ten parts per million)
- Tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews, macadamias, and pistachios).
You’ll find information on UK Food Standard Agency guidance regarding Natasha’s Law here
Interested in finding out more about how DateCodeGenie® could help your business ensure compliance with Natasha’s Law? Call Elliott’s now on 01482 327580 or email us.