In light of several widely-reported incidents of deaths by allergic reaction, new laws around food labelling are being proposed to help prevent further deaths. Current labelling laws means foods don’t necessarily feature key information for allergy sufferers, with no legal obligation to list potential allergens in foods prepared on premises. The proposed laws hope to change that and make sure that improved food labelling provides allergy sufferers with the information they need to make the right choice when choosing food.
What has sparked the call for improved food labelling?
There have been a number of incidents of fatal or life-changing reactions to allergies in recent years, but one of the most recent has shined a spotlight on the subject of food labelling and the need for improvement.
Last year, teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, purchased a baguette from Pret a Manger at Heathrow Airport, which unbeknownst to her contained sesame seeds, which she was allergic to. She boarded a flight to Nice with her father and suffered a cardiac arrest on board and died as a result. She had checked the label for mention of sesame seeds, but there were none listed in the ingredients.
Now, Natasha’s parents are campaigning for improved food labelling to help prevent the tragedy that has happened to their family. The suggested regulations are being dubbed ‘Natasha’s Law’ and could pioneer a new cause that ensures food allergies are better handled not only in the UK, but across the world too. There are four proposals for improved labelling, which are:
- Listing the full ingredients on the label
- Listing only the allergens
- ‘Ask the staff’ labels, allowing customers to seek additional written information
- Ensuring best practice is followed to communicate information about allergens to customers.
Currently, it is not law for businesses to include food allergen information on food packed and sold on their premises. Under new regulations, this will be changed and customers will be able to see more obviously whether there are potential allergens in their food. Meanwhile, many businesses are already improving their practices to provide clearer food labelling.
Coping with allergies
While improved food labelling could help you make better choices when it comes to purchasing food, there is still a lot you can do on your own to help prevent an allergic reaction. NHS Choices has some useful information on preventing allergic reactions, including remembering to ask in cafes, restaurants etc. for allergen information about their foods. Key advice is to avoid something if you’re unsure, just to be on the safe side.
It’s also important that you know what to do in the event of an allergic reaction. Spotting the signs and getting guidance from your GP for tackling reactions is important, and could potentially save your life or the life of someone else. Severe allergic reactions can be fatal if they’re not treated in time. Make sure you seek medical attention straight away. Better awareness and better regulations around food allergens can save lives, so make sure you do your bit to find out more.