Natasha's Law fresh olives

Retailers are being warned to keep up compliance with allergen legislation Natasha’s Law, as the government has issued £1.5m to local councils to crackdown on enforcement. 

Introduced in October last year, Natasha’s Law requires retailers who prepare and sell fresh food-to-go products in store to list the full ingredients and certain allergens. 

The 14 allergens that must be declared include celery, cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, lupin, milk, molluscs, mustard, peanuts, sesame, soybeans, sulphur dioxide and sulphites, and tree nuts. 

The restriction was named after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died from an allergic reaction after eating a sandwich from Pret a Manger. 

Last month, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced a £1.5m fund to help 151 councils in England enforce Natasha’s Law. 

Averaging £9,933 per local authority, the grant will last until March 2023. 

DEFRA said: “The grant covers a single new burden: enforcement costs. From 1 October 2021, food safety and standards enforcement must include an inspection of the business’s compliance with the new allergen-labelling legislation. 

“This will increase the time required for each visit by approximately one hour. The cost calculation assumes that outlets are inspected once every two years.” 

Stores found breaching the regulations will be given an enforcement notice initially, with the most severe penalty being unlimited fines and a criminal offence. Stores that don’t sell food-to-go don’t have to comply. 

Store owners across England reported a mixed level of enforcement by local councils, so far. 

Although retailers across Birmingham said they had received visits, some stores in Manchester, Cambridgeshire and the Midlands have seen no enforcement officers. 

Despite the lack of inspections, retailers praised suppliers such as Cuisine de France and Blakemore for their support, but stressed the importance of remaining compliant, especially with the increased funding. 

Amit Puntambekar, of Ash’s Shop in Cambridgeshire, told betterRetailing: “Our local authority isn’t the most diligent on checks, but we’ve seen support from Cuisine de France who constantly upgrade their equipment. We can now include information such as calorie counts. 

“I was quite nervous about having allergens on hand, but we’ve remained fully compliant and haven’t had hassle from anyone.” 

Shortly after Natasha’s Law came into force, an betterRetailing investigation found 60% of independent retailers across the south of England were in breach of the legislation

Read more Natasha’s Law articles and advice for retailers