Natasha’s Law

  • Published 22nd Mar 21
  • Categories Blog

New Food Labelling Requirements

The new allergen labelling rules, which are now enshrined in legislation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, will come into effect from 1 October 2021. The new allergen labelling requirements will apply to a category of food called pre-packed for direct sale.

It is vital that any information about food allergens is transparent, reliance on verbal information can place your customers at unnecessary risk.
What if a member of staff accidentally provides incorrect information that leads to a severe allergic reaction or death?
Or, if a customer fails to ask for information and makes the assumption that food is safe, who is at fault?
Clearly listing all ingredients, as set out in PPDS legislation, is a way to protect both your school and your customers from avoidable harm. This listed information also provides a safety net and reassurance for anyone living with food allergies.

Examples of food which is pre-packed for direct sale

  • Sandwiches packaged by the food business (school) and sold or offered from the same premises.
  • Fast food which is wrapped or packaged before a customer selects or orders it. – burgers, sausage rolls, panini, etc.
  • Bakery products which are packaged before a customer selects them.
  • Any potted items with lids on – salads, jellies, mousses, fruit pots, yoghurt/granola pots etc.
  • Free issues or hospitality of cakes if they are packaged at the premises.
  • Food packaged and sold by the same business at a separate outlet – i.e. 6th Form or conveyed meals.
  • Pupil packed lunches for school trips.

Examples of food which is not pre-packed for direct sale

  • Food not in packaging.
  • Food which is loose before a consumer selects or orders it, which is then packaged afterwards.
  • Loose food (non pre-packed), such as sandwiches on a tray, counter served foods and fast food which was not packaged at the point it was ordered.
  • Allergen information must still be available for consumers via CMC’s Allergen Summary Form.

This will affect both Primary and Secondary schools as there is no age exemption regardless of whether a pupil can interpret the information or not.

The majority of people who suffer near-fatal reactions or death had no idea that they were at risk. Additionally, those who are at risk find the unpredictability of living with food allergies daunting.

Young adults and teenagers are classed as particularly ‘at risk’ of suffering severe reactions.

Spotlight on Allergens

Fish

Seafood is used as a collective term that includes both fish and shellfish, although the FSA class them as 3 separate allergens – FISH, CRUSTACEANS and MOLLUSCS we will explore crustaceans and molluscs in another focus.

Fish are vertebrates (they have a backbone) and most fish are covered in scales and have fins. Common varieties of fish eaten in the UK include cod, plaice, haddock, herring, trout, salmon and tuna and you are more likely to use some of these in your school kitchens.
But there are many other varieties of fish and all are capable of triggering allergic reactions: Anchovy , Mackerel, Sea bream, Basa, Monkfish, Snapper, Perch, Swordfish, Cuttlefish, Pike, Pilchards, Flounder, Turbot, Grouper, Pollock, Whitebait, Haddock, Salmon, Whiting, Hake, Sardine, Tilapia, Halibut, Sea bass.

An allergy to either fish or shellfish is likely to be lifelong and is rarely outgrown. Fish reactions have the potential to cause anaphylaxis, which is the most severe form of an allergic reaction.

Whilst some forms of fish or shellfish may be visible in food, other forms may be hidden or not obvious by sight or smell. The following list of foods includes some common culprits for containing fish and/or shellfish:

  • Asian foods may contain fish or shellfish mixed with other foods (such as prawn fried rice) or fish and shellfish disguised in stocks or sauces
  • Rice dishes such as paella, fried rice and sushi rolls may contain fish or shellfish
  • Fish and shellfish can be disguised in a batter or crumb coating such as scampi, fish fingers or seafood sticks
  • Stews, soups or casseroles such as seafood chowder or bouillabaisse
  • Dips or pates containing fish such as taramasalata, salmon and caviar or roe (fish eggs)
  • Anchovy (fish) may be present in Caesar salads, added as a pizza topping or in a sauce
  • Sauces that contain fish, including Worcestershire, oyster and fish sauces which can be added to many different types of dishes, including casseroles and stir-frys
  • Pizza toppings such as prawn, anchovy, calamari, mussels and fish
  • Foods cooked in the same batter or oil (for example fish and chips from a takeaway)

What are the symptoms of fish allergy?

The symptoms of a food allergy can come on rapidly. These may include nettle rash (otherwise known as hives or urticaria) anywhere on the body, or a tingling or itchy feeling in the mouth.  More serious symptoms may include:

  • Swelling in the face, throat and/or mouth
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe asthma
  • Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting

The term for this more serious form of allergy is anaphylaxis. In extreme cases there could be a dramatic fall in blood pressure (anaphylactic shock). The person may become weak and floppy and may have a sense of something terrible happening. This may lead to collapse and loss of consciousness. On rare occasions, death can occur.

Mustard

The familiar jars of mustard that we see on supermarket shelves are made by grinding the seeds of the mustard plant and mixing them with water, vinegar or other liquids. Other ingredients can be added such as sugar, salt and wheat flour.

Mustard seeds are produced by the mustard plant which is a member of the Brassica family. Seeds can be white, yellow, brown or black. Whole seeds can be used in a variety of ways in cooking including roasting, marinating or as an addition to pickled products. Whole, ground, cracked or bruised mustard seeds are mixed with other ingredients to make table mustard.

Mustard powder seeds may be ground down to a powder or flour and used widely in a variety of styles of cooking, there are other foods derived from the mustard plant including mustard leaves, seeds and flowers, sprouted mustard seeds, mustard oil, mustard and cress, and foods that contain any of these. All are likely to cause reactions in people with mustard allergy.

The major allergy-inducing proteins in mustard are heat-resistant and are not greatly affected by food processing. Therefore people with mustard allergy will react to mustard in processed or heated meals.

The yellow colour of some mustard types is from the addition of ingredients like turmeric or other colourants.

Because mustard is sometimes a masked or hidden allergen in foods it is important to know that it may not be obvious by sight, taste or smell.

Products that may contain mustard:

  • Tables sauces – French, wholegrain, Dijon etc.
  • Sauces – mayonnaise, BBQ, Ketchup
  • Pickles – picked onions, piccalilli, chutneys
  • Mustard Greens – kai choi, baby mustards, chinese leaf
  • Other sources – processed deli meat, stock cubes, sausages, soups

Traditionally mustard is said to be a remedy for certain physical complaints, having laxative, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition to the seeds, the leaves and stem of some varieties of mustard plants are edible and may be used as a salad leaf or vegetable.

Coming up next month…

We look at the technical detail on correct labelling; fonts and layouts.

In our ‘Spotlight on Allergens’ feature we will focus on the allergens Milk and Molluscs, the foods that are most likely to contain them and the possible alternatives available.

If you are concerned what Natasha’s Law means for you – exactly what information your food labelling should now include along with the costs, logistics and man hours of updating allergen information on packs, then look out for our monthly blog.

Need help with your allergen compliance?

CMC can give you advice and support on all aspects of your food safety in school.

Contact us today to see how we can help you.
01254 351887
enquiries@cmcschoolfood.co.uk

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