New Government proposals to toughen food labelling laws to protect allergy sufferers are about saving lives, the father of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse has said.
The 15-year-old died in 2016 following an allergic reaction to sesame in a baguette from Pret A Manger. The ingredient was not listed on the label.
In the wake of her death her parents have been calling for a new so-called “Natasha’s Law” to make all pre-packaged food clearly display allergen information.
A Government consultation has since been launched into food labelling laws focusing on overhauling the labelling of pre-prepared foods which are made, packaged and sold in-store.
Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Natasha’s father, Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, said the family are asking for labels to list the 14 well-known allergens as well as the full ingredients.
“Because, particularly people today more than ever, have allergies, severe allergies to many things, not just those 14 particular things,” he told the programme.
“So it allows people who may have an allergy to something else to see the ingredients and not buy that product; therefore save their life.
“This is life-saving issues, it is not just a convenience or a fashion, or a trend or a fad, it is about lives, and lives really, really matter.”
Under current rules, food prepared on the premises in which it is sold is not required to display allergen information on the package.
But under the proposed reforms, published on Friday by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, outlets selling pre-packaged food could be required to follow new labelling rules, including a full list of ingredients required by law.
The department said the consultation was designed to give the UK’s two million food allergy sufferers greater confidence in the safety of what they are eating.
Appearing alongside her husband, Natasha’s mother, Tanya, said what happened was the “biggest fear a parent ever has for their child when they have allergies”.
She said that, as parents, they understand how those who have children with allergies live their lives every day, how they feel and how frightening it is.
“We couldn’t not do this,” she said of the drive to push for food labelling reform.
“This is in Natasha’s name and it is what she would want; because she lived with it, she knew how hard it was.”
Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who has discussed the consultation with Natasha’s parents, said he wanted to ensure food labels were clearer and rules for businesses more consistent.
He added: “Natasha’s parents have suffered a terrible loss, and I want to pay tribute to Nadim and Tanya for their inspirational work to deliver Natasha’s law.
“We want to ensure that labels are clearer and that the rules for businesses are more consistent – so that allergy sufferers in this country can have confidence in the safety of their food.
“Many businesses are already bringing changes on board independently, and in the meantime they should continue doing all they can to give consumers the information they need.”
The proposed reforms cover labelling requirements for foods that are packed on the same premises from which they are sold – such as a packaged sandwich or salad made by staff earlier in the day and placed on a shelf for purchase.
Currently, these foods are not required to carry labels, and information on allergens can be given in person by the food business if asked by the customer.
The department is urging businesses and allergy sufferers to have their say on four options being put forward to change the way allergy advice is provided on these foods.
Proposals include mandating full ingredient listing, allergen-only labelling, “ask the staff” labels on all products, or promoting “best practice around communicating allergen information to consumers”.
The consultation on proposed amendments to the domestic Food Information Regulations 2014 will run for nine weeks.