The United Kingdom already labels more allergens than the United States. Now, with the passage of Natasha’s Law, their allergen labeling is about to get a whole lot better.
14 Labeled Allergens
Currently, by U.K. Law, ingredient labels must clearly label 14 allergens. Those allergens are:
- Crustacean Shellfish
- Lupin (a relative to the peanut)
- Molluscan Shellfish
- Sulphites (when added)
- Tree Nuts
- Cereals Containing Gluten (Wheat, Rye, Barley, and they include Oats here)
I also learned from a Facebook follower that current U.K. Law says the label should be understood by the average 7-year-old.
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse was only 15 years old when she bought a sandwich at a sandwich shop in Heathrow Airport before taking a flight to Nice in July of 2016. She experienced anaphylaxis on the airplane. Despite receiving two EpiPens on the plane, she later passed away at a hospital after landing in Nice. Yet one more death attributed to food allergy.
Natasha was allergic to sesame. The sandwich she purchased contained sesame–though not visibly. The sandwich fell into a gray-area category of food labeling: a fresh food pre-prepared on the premises that didn’t need its own ingredient label. (U.S. laws are similar.) However, it seemed the sandwich was labeled enough that Natasha felt safe eating it, believing it did not contain sesame.
Natasha’s Law and Allergen Labeling
Since Natasha’s unfortunate death, her family has worked tirelessly to change allergen labeling laws. Recently, lawmakers passed Natasha’s Law, which will require full ingredient disclosure on pre-packaged foods in the U.K. by 2021.
Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, Natasha’s parents, said they were “delighted” by the announcement of the change. Their goal is to protect other allergic customers.
What would this look like in the U.S.?
We’re always thrilled when we see progress in allergen labeling. I do have to wonder how it will look when complete, though. In the U.S., the Top 8 Allergens must be labeled by name, but for anyone allergic to another food, ingredient labels are inadequate.
There are so many chemical compounds in foods that only get listed by their final name–not to mention everything that can hide under “spices” and “natural flavors.” The number of ingredients that are (or can be) derived from corn, for example, is longer than your arm.
I understand that many foods in Europe are less processed than here in the U.S.A., so perhaps this label change is easier on the other side of the Atlantic. My head spins when I try to imagine what this same law would look like on U.S. labels.
But thinking optimistically, perhaps this law change will provide a blueprint for what allergen labeling could eventually look like in other countries–including the U.S. We’d like to thank the Ednan-Laperouse family for their hard work and advocacy in protecting others!
Natasha’s Law: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-48752388
Natasha’s anaphylaxis: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-45623831
U.K. Allergy Labeling: https://allergytraining.food.gov.uk/english/rules-and-legislation/