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15 Jun 2021 | 16:23

Are you prepared for Natasha's Law?

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Food businesses in England selling pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) goods, such as sandwiches and salads, will need to comply with the Food Information (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2019, otherwise known as Natasha’s Law, from October 2021.

The Barcode Warehouse’s technology partner Brother surveyed 100 food businesses to find out how prepared they are for the changes that are ahead.

Only 20% of those surveyed say that their business is completely prepared for Natasha’s Law, and of those that say they are prepared, 47% are larger firms, with smaller firms making up only 13% of those fully prepared. You can read the full report here

With only a few months left to prepare, now is the time for those businesses to act to ensure they do not face penalties of up to £5000.

Labelling challenge

The regulation states that PPDS products will need to clearly display all ingredients, with allergens highlighted either in bold or in another colour. A list of allergens will no longer be acceptable.

32% of the food businesses surveyed said they still rely on handwritten labels. Clearly, with this new emphasis on food labelling, the amendment is going to present a challenge to those businesses unless they adopt new labelling practices.

The first challenge comes from getting the full list of ingredients from suppliers. Then they must combine that information to accurately reflect the contents of each product, making sure they comply with regulation regarding the way in which it is displayed on the label.
As Phil Dalton, head of regulatory at food safety consultants NT Assure, points out, “There are technical solutions that enable you to do that; specification systems that will take input from a diverse supply base and combine it for you. If your system isn’t capable of that, you’ll have to rely on a manual process and, depending on the complexity of the product, that could be quite a challenge.”

Finding the right solution for each business

If ingredients change last minute, or one ingredient has to be swapped for another, firms won’t be able to rely on hand-written or pre-printed labels.

Making changes would be time consuming and leave too much potential for human error, which could be costly in more ways than one.

With the number of people living with allergies rising by 5% every year in the UK, this is a potentially deadly problem that is not going away any time soon.

For an effective solution to the problem, they will need labels printed on demand, in real time, with clear, accurate information about all the ingredients in the food.

Tried-and-tested technology

While it is understandable that smaller firms have stuck to handwritten labels up until now, there are solutions designed for smaller operators that are affordable and scalable.

Pre-packed foods have been legally required to display full ingredients including allergens on each product for many years now, meaning there are plenty of tried-and-tested technologies available to do the job.

They typically work by utilising a software package that contains a database of ingredients, allergens and nutritional information combined with a label printer that can produce bespoke food labels. They can even print barcodes and branding to make the labels look more professional.

This kind of solution is completely scalable, from one product to many hundreds, meaning any size of business can affordably take advantage of it.

Above and beyond for a safer, more profitable future

A small minority (9%) of those surveyed think that Natasha’s Law is an unnecessary added cost to their business. Indeed, the survey suggests that the vast majority recognise the opportunity to improve brand perception, with 82% saying the way their food is labelled affects how their brand is perceived, and 95% saying they think Natasha’s Law will have a positive effect on their business overall.

Stephen Nolan, chief operating officer at Nutritics, adds, “While some food businesses may view Natasha’s Law as another regulatory hurdle, firms can achieve compliance without having to spend a lot of money and cost shouldn’t be a barrier at all.In fact, it’s an opportunity to grow. Customers, particularly younger customers, want to know what they are eating and they welcome transparency. There’s value in going further than just the letter of the law, providing details of nutrition and provenance too.Customers will spend their money at the places that make it easy for them to find the information that they want. Food labelling systems can provide this information and can also work to analyse your costs, working out which dishes are most profitable and helping you develop your menu to maximise profits.”

An opportunity to grow

With Natasha’s Law presenting a clear opportunity to grow and improve business practises in the food industry, there seems little reason to wait before implementing the systems and technology needed for compliance.

The Barcode Warehouse provides a range of label printing solutions compatible with food labelling software that enables businesses to provide detailed ingredient information on their labels.

View our full guide on Natasha’s Law for more information about labelling solutions and further results of the Brother survey.

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