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Why AXIO and BRCGS are key ingredients in compliance with Natasha’s Law

LGC Assure brands AXIO and BRCGS play an important role in helping companies provide the reassurances and certifications to help keep people safe and their food operations legally compliant.

6 June 2022

How LGC AXIO and BRCGS are helping food outlets comply with Natasha’s Law

Protecting consumers from allergens is a constant challenge for everyone involved in the food industry. LGC AXIO Proficiency Testing is helping companies ensure they can provide the necessary reassurances to help keep people safe and their food operations legally compliant.

Meanwhile, BRCGS has created a suite of food safety certification programmes that set the benchmark for managing product safety, integrity, legality and quality in the food and food ingredient manufacturing, processing and packing industries. The standards has been adopted by over 30,000 sites in 130 countries. The BRCGS standard is accepted by 70% of the top 10 global retailers, 60% of the top 10 quick-service restaurants and 50% of the top 25 manufacturers.

Since October 2021, when Natasha’s Law came into effect, food outlets have been required to provide full ingredient lists with clear allergen labelling on Pre-Packed for Direct Sale (PPDS) foods. These are foods that are prepared, pre-packed and offered or sold to consumers on the same premises. They can include food self-selected by consumers from a display unit as well as products kept behind a counter or food sold at mobile or temporary outlets.

The severity of allergic reactions

In the US alone, it’s estimated that 32 million people have food allergies. In the UK, it’s estimated that 1 in 4 people are living with allergies. Around the world, millions of people each year have allergic reactions to the products they eat. Although most instances result in mild symptoms, failure to identify an allergen can make some consumers very ill and even prove fatal.

That’s what happened with Natasha Ednan-Laperouse. In July 2016, the teenager died following an allergic reaction caused by eating sesame seeds that were baked into the dough of a baguette purchased from a Pret A Manger outlet at Heathrow Airport. There was no specific allergen information on the baguette packaging, which 15-year-old Natasha had been reassured by.

A widely supported campaign by Natasha’s parents eventually resulted in the adoption of strict legal requirements for PPDS food labelling, known as Natasha’s Law. But several additional allergy-related fatalities occurred in the intervening years.

The triple threat of potential allergens

Now across the EU and US, if PPDS food includes any of the 14 allergens required to be declared by law, those ingredients must be clearly identified and highlighted on the packaging.

It is a move designed to protect companies as well as consumers. Because food allergens are not only potentially harmful to the health (and sometimes even lives) of consumers. The ongoing fight against potential allergens can also adversely affect the reputations of brands, as well as the bottom line of corporate balance sheets, if costly product recalls become necessary.

Pret a Manger has certainly suffered significant reputational damage following the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, as well as a second customer, Celia Marsh, who died from an allergic reaction in December 2017.

Alongside the tragedy of the fatalities, these events hit the company hard in terms of finances too.

Taking a lax approach to food product labelling when more and more people are reporting severe allergies is a recipe for potential trouble – and leaves companies of all sizes open to criticism.

Proficiency testing for food safety is a key ingredient in compliance

The cost of recalls to the food industry is conservatively estimated to be about $10bn per year. And allergens are one of the three main causes of food recalls worldwide, with the highest number of recalls caused by the presence of milk, nuts, gluten/wheat, eggs and soya.

Because no single analytical method is available to companies to determine the composition of the foods they produce and sell, proficiency testing programmes are often used to check that the method chosen for food allergen testing is fit for purpose.

For 40 years, LGC AXIO Proficiency Testing has been a trusted partner for laboratories working to test food allergens and keep food safe for everyone. Regular participation in our proficiency testing schemes gives them confidence in the measurement of their results.

Today, we provide proficiency testing schemes with localised support to over 13,000 laboratories in more than 160 countries, conducting more than 2,000 proficiency tests each year. This is a key requirement for accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025 and ISO 15189 and AXIO operates schemes across the food, beverage and many other sectors.

To help companies comply with Natasha’s Law and similar legal requirements, AXIO has recently expanded its Quality in Food Chemistry scheme. This now includes a new food labelling sample to verify that labels contain the right information to conform to European food law or equivalent and four new additions to its portfolio of identifiable allergens. And with millions of consumers worldwide looking for gluten-free foods, BRCGS is seeing growing interest in its Gluten-Free Certification Scheme.

Support compliance with Natasha's Law

We have the right expertise and products to ensure you stay on the right side of compliance. Contact us to find out how AXIO and BRCGS can help you provide assurance to brands and consumers.

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