Published: 09:16, 10 January 2022
| Updated: 09:17, 10 January 2022
Trading standards chiefs say too many food businesses in the county are failing to comply with a new law brought in to prevent tragic deaths caused by allergic reactions.
Natasha's Law came into force on October 1 last year. It requires pre-packaged food like takeaway sandwiches and salads to have their full ingredients listed so allergy sufferers can be sure what they are eating.
It is named after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse who died after suffering an allergic reaction to sesame seeds in a baguette she had purchased from Pret a Manger. She was just 15.
Samantha Padfield, Kent Trading Standards operations manager, said out of a total 30 Kent samples tested in labs since October, 24 had not complied.
She said: "I want to reassure everyone that we are working closely with the county’s food businesses to ensure they are in no doubt about what they need to do to meet the new allergy labelling requirements.
“We are very aware food allergies are a growing issue, particularly for young people, and sadly lives are lost every year in the UK as a result of severe allergic reactions.
“We want to get this right and, thanks to funding from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), we are offering a range of free advice to help businesses comply and give customers confidence which, in turn, will help food firms grow.
"That said we continue to keep our approach under review and those who fail to act on this advice will face formal enforcement action.”
Mark Rolfe, head of West Malling-based KCC Kent Scientific Services – one of four official food and feed testing labs in England – said: “Over the last two years we have carried out 505 tests for the presence of allergens for Trading Standards, including Kent Trading Standards, and environmental health teams across the South and South East. Of those, 56 tests failed.
“More recently, in the three months following the introduction of Natasha’s Law, our forensic analysis has detected 19 instances of undeclared allegens, four involving sesame, in 83 samples tested.
“The impact on consumers when they eat food containing undeclared allergens can be really serious. The presence of gluten can cause someone living with Celiac Disease severe illness or discomfort while sesame can cause serious illness, and even death, as we saw in the case which led to the introduction of Natasha’s Law.”
Mike Hill, KCC’s cabinet member for community and regulatory services, said: “Given the potentially serious consequences of regulatory breaches on allergen labelling for consumers and traders, I urge any Kent business wanting help and advice to contact Trading Standards by calling 03000 412020 or emailing TSbusinessadvice@kent.gov.uk."
For more information about the allergen labelling changes click here.