Tragic deaths lead London-base

Mustard Foods production facility. Image supplied

Tragic deaths lead London-based SA business to adapt allergen labelling

Two tragic allergy-related deaths in the UK lead to label reforms.

Tragic deaths lead London-base

Mustard Foods production facility. Image supplied

Two tragic deaths lead London-based SA business Mustard Foods to adapt allergen labelling. “The UK food industry is evolving but we’re not doing enough to help severe allergy sufferers,” says Cape-Town born entrepreneur and Mustard Foods director James Durrant. 

Natasha’s Law

In 2016, Natasha Ednan-Laperouse tragically died from an allergic reaction after eating a baguette at Heathrow Airport. The fatality was caused by a severe reaction to sesame which was not listed in the ingredients of the sandwich. 

In 2021, the UK introduced ‘Natasha’s Law’ known formally as the Food Information Amendment which by law requires all businesses to provide clear and accurate allergen information on pre-packed for direct sale food.

2023 e-book ‘Revisiting Natasha’s Law’ states, “there are two million allergy sufferers in the UK, and studies show that the number of people living with allergies is rising by 5% every year”.

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For UK food businesses it’s imperative to adhere to allergen labelling for the safety of their customers, but also to avoid hefty fines that come with non-compliance: “Those who don’t comply face the possibility of large fines and reputational damage. Businesses who are found by health inspectors to not be following the regulations could stand to face a fine of £5,000 [R117 600] per instance of non-compliance.”

Dairy Free Claims

In December 2017, Celia Marsh had a fatal reaction to a ‘vegan’ wrap from Pret a Manger. The Guardian reported that Marsh died two hours after eating a ‘super-veg rainbow flatbread’ which claimed to be dairy free. 

Following an extensive investigation, it was discovered that the wrap contained coconut yoghurt contaminated with milk protein. A stabiliser in the yoghurt called HG1 had become contaminated during its manufacture at Tate & Lyle’s plant in north Wales. 

The Marsh family warned that “more people will die unless comprehensive testing throughout the food supply chain and better labelling are introduced.” 

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Making the change to ‘avoiding milk’

As the UK food industry grapples with allergen awareness and evolving regulations, London-based food manufacturer Mustard Foods takes a decisive step to lead the way in dairy allergen labelling.  

Mustard Foods production checks.

Mustard Foods, whose facility handles dairy, has taken a proactive approach by removing all ‘dairy free’ claims from their product labels and online listing. Their technical and quality team has replaced ‘dairy free’ claims with the term ‘avoiding milk’ which clarifies that the product is suitable for consumers simply avoiding dairy milk. However, if you have a severe dairy allergy, like Celia Marsh, then the product is not safe to consume because there is a risk of trace dairy contamination. 

Each product from Mustard Foods has a corresponding Precautionary Allergen Label (PAL) which specifies other allergens that are handled in the factory, but not included in the recipe. For example, Chicken, Lemon & Chickpea Tagine, which is listed as suitable for those ‘avoiding milk’ has a PAL which states: Processed in a facility that handles other allergens (Celery, Barley, Oats, Rye, Wheat, Eggs, Fish, Milk, Molluscs, Mustard, Peanuts, Sesame, Soya).

Mustard Foods chicken lemon chickpea tagine.

“We’re committed to the health and safety of our customers, and we hope that increased transparency and attention to detail in allergen labelling can make dining out safer for customers, and provide an industry standard to foodservice suppliers,” says Durrant.