Sodexo food service assistant

Natasha's Law: Understanding food allergy labelling changes

Published on : 4/11/22
  • Concerns around food allergies have gained momentum over the last few years, sparking growing calls for awareness and safety. Since 1 October 2021, food service operators, like Sodexo, must follow new mandatory UK Government legislation that has changed how Prepacked for Direct Sale (PPDS) items are labelled – this legislation is known as Natasha's Law.

    What is Natasha's Law?

    Named after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, the newly implemented rules have had a wide-reaching impact on the food industry.

    The 15-year-old teenager tragically passed away in 2016 from an allergic reaction after eating a packaged baguette that did not require allergen labelling at the time. Ever since her death, Natasha's parents have advocated and fought for a change in legislation to ensure situations like hers never happen again.

    Businesses selling Prepacked for Direct Sale (PPDS) food within the UK must now provide a full ingredient list with the 14 major allergens emphasised. Sodexo has also rolled out the changes across its Republic of Ireland sites to support and future proof the move.

    The mandatory changes further protect food allergy sufferers by strengthening current regulations and offering consumers written information before they buy PPDS food. Food Standards Agency research has shown that while customers feel comfortable approaching Sodexo employees about dietary requirements, written allergy information makes them feel even more confident. 

    Natasha's Law provides consumers with vital information up front, potentially saving lives. It is a positive step forward for more than two-million people in the UK and Ireland currently living with a diagnosed food allergy, coeliac disease, or food intolerance. At Sodexo, we prioritise food safety across all our services, placing the protection of our customers at the forefront of everything we do.

     

    What impact do the changes have on my business?

    The legislation applies to all food service providers who sell PPDS products, big or small. These businesses need to ensure labels on PPDS products name all ingredients explicitly, with all 14 major allergenic ingredients emphasised. 

    So how can you make sure your food business is compliant? Whether using handwritten labels or investing in new labelling machines, it is of the utmost importance that all ingredients are included on the PPDS label. These can be taken from details provided by your suppliers. 
     
    The definition of a PPDS product can be a bit confusing, but it is generally described as anything packaged by food businesses and sold without the customer being present during its packaging. Examples include sandwiches, dessert pots, and salads.   

    The legislation does not apply to food that is packaged after being chosen by the consumer, so items such as fresh sandwiches ordered at the deli counter or takeaway orders don't count.   

    More PPDS information and guidance is available from:

     

    Sodexo's approach to the new changes

    At Sodexo, we prioritised the new legislation, bringing in the changes well in advance. As a result, we've updated our allergen management standards, and training materials have been following Natasha's Law across all our catering operations (where PPDS applies) since the summer of 2021.

    A 'one-size-fits-all' approach would not work for Sodexo as we operate across a diverse range of sites and clients. However, Sodexo's large size means we can accommodate legal and client allergen requests comprehensively and effectively. 

    Samantha Holmes, HSEQ Director for Sodexo UK & Ireland, says:

    “Our consumers put their trust in Sodexo every time they eat with us, which is why it has been so important to have a solution in place that enables our people to easily comply and helps them fully understand the reasoning behind the changes.

    "The new regulations provide robust controls that will help safeguard many people in the future.“

    To make sure all Sodexo's food service operators are up to speed, we have introduced internal training courses alongside an adaptation of our current service offers. In each catering operation we have an identified PPDS champion(s) who supports their colleagues and is a key point of contact for any queries.

    Sodexo's training programmes can be completed by colleagues either online or in-person and are compulsory for those responsible for creating, selling, managing, or operating food services. The learning provides much-needed insight into the new rules and how to handle the new processes most effectively. 

    Frontline colleagues also have access to a newly developed course aimed specifically at tackling PPDS food compliance. Alongside previous allergen safety training already in place, this course must be completed as part of the regular annual training cycle and delivered to all new starters.

    Sodexo sites have looked at other solutions when offering PPDS food to ensure our consumers' safety and reassure clients. For example, we have worked with existing suppliers to deliver bought-in prepacked and labelled ranges. 

    For sites that can't use these bought in prepacked products, we have also begun offering a dedicated made in house (MIH) selection of recipes. This uses an updated labelling system, and sees sites adopting this approach given further training so they can access and print compliant labels on food considered PPDS.

    These solutions have been successfully running since October 2021 and have received fantastic feedback from both Sodexo colleagues and clients.

    The swift adoption of PPDS food legislation has needed an engaged workforce, which is why Sodexo has made sure its employees feel comfortable with the changes. All information shared is consistent with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS).

    We have robust onsite checks, and internal HSEQ audits to monitor PPDS compliance across the UK&I, helping us continually improve our services.

    Julie Wagner, Head of Food Safety for Sodexo UK & Ireland, comments:

    “Following the implementation of the PPDS legislation, it's been fantastic to continue to highlight the importance of allergens. In partnership with The Allergy Team, we have produced three exciting bite-sized allergen videos aimed at our frontline colleagues. The videos provide real-life accounts of allergy sufferers, and help Sodexo food service operators really understand the difference they are making to people every day.”

     

    You can learn more about Sodexo's catering services here