A decade after the Real Bread Campaign began lobbying for full ingredient labelling of all loaves, the UK government has at last announced one move towards this.
On 25 June 2019, Defra announced that all foods prepacked for direct sale will need to be labelled with full ingredients lists, under what is being called Natasha’s Law.
Real Bread Campaign co-ordinator Chris Young said: “We welcome this step in the right direction but we believe that the government are still dragging their collective feet in supporting people’s right to be able to make fully-informed choices about the loaves and sandwiches they buy. It’s infuriating that they only seem to take any action at all when forced by EU regulation or a tragedy.”
By applying to all foods, the new law extends further than the Real Bread Campaign’s call for full ingredient listing for loaves, sandwiches etc. However, it falls short of the Campaign’s call for full labelling of those sold unwrapped, still does not require food additives deemed to be ‘processing’ aids from appearing on labels of any food, and doesn’t touch upon marketing terms, such as freshly baked, wholegrain or sourdough.
Defra said that the new laws will come into force ‘by summer 2021.’ The Real Bread Campaign has asked Defra and the Food Standards Agency to confirm how ‘food prepacked for direct sale’ is being defined for the purpose of this new law – for example, whether or not it includes a loaf or sandwich put in an open paper bag at the place it is made and sold, or if the package needs to be sealed in some way.
The Campaign has also asked Defra and the FSA what guidance and support will be on offer to food SMEs to help them implement the changes. In response, the FSA tweeted: 'Publication of technical guidance is scheduled for December this year. An appropriate transition period will be considered to enable food businesses to put processes in place.'
The Real Bread Campaign continues its decade-long call for improved loaf labelling and marketing regulations to protect shoppers and create a more level playing field for food producers and retailers. On the specific issue of food allergens, Sustain member Allergy UK and others have been calling for improved labelling for many years and continue to do so.
It was not until the EU required the Food Information For Consumers Regulations to be enforced in 2013 that the UK government required producers to list previously undeclared flour additives. As recently as November 2018 the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, deferred any review of the Real Bread Campaign’s Honest Crust Act calls until after Brexit.
The inadequacy of UK food labelling was further highlighted by campaigning led by the family of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died in 2016 from an allergic reaction to sesame not declared on the label of a Pret a Manger baguette. The added attention following the inquest in September 2018 at last helped to convince Mr. Gove to start work on just one of the improvements previously proposed by the Real Bread Campaign and others.
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