Food allergy sufferers will be protected under a new law following the death of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse.
“Natasha’s Law” will require all food businesses to include full ingredients labelling on pre-packaged food, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced.
The legislation, introduced by Michael Gove, the environment secretary, will apply to England and Northern Ireland, and is due to come into force by summer 2021.
Natasha, from Fulham, west London, suffered a severe allergic reaction after unknowingly eating sesame contained in an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette she had bought from a Pret a Manger at Heathrow Airport.
The 15-year-old died of anaphylaxis after collapsing on board a flight to Nice in July 2016.
Her parents have previously called for the so-called law to make all pre-packaged food clearly show allergens, which they have discussed with Mr Gove.
Under current rules, food prepared on the premises in which it is sold – such as a packaged sandwich or salad made by staff – is not required to display allergen information on the package.
The new legislation will tighten the rules by requiring foods that are pre-packed directly for sale to carry a full list of ingredients, Defra said.
Natasha’s parents, Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, said the law would be a “fitting legacy” for their daughter.
They said: “We are absolutely delighted that the secretary of state has announced the Government’s decision to go ahead with full allergen and ingredient labelling.
“While Natasha’s Law comes too late to save our beloved daughter, we believe that helping save other allergy sufferers and their families from the enduring agony that we will always bear is a fitting legacy for her life.
“We would personally like to thank Michael Gove and health secretary Matt Hancock for their unflinching support in doing the right thing on behalf of all people with allergies, and their support in setting up the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation which we are launching today in Natasha’s memory.”
The trade body which represents the UK’s hospitality sector acknowledged the “sensitivity” around the legislation being introduced, but cautioned that new food labelling practices could be “impractical and potentially hazardous”.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “We are worried that full ingredient labelling is going to prevent the kind of dialogue we need to promote.
“Some smaller businesses may struggle with the unwieldy new legislation and it is almost certainly going to lead to much less choice for customers.
“There is also a risk that the new measures, which will not circumvent cross-contamination and will be open to mislabelling, will only promote a dangerous reliance on labelling.”
Although the new legislation is due to be introduced by the summer, businesses will be given a two-year implementation period to adapt to the change, the department said.
The government launched a consultation into food labelling laws in January, with businesses and allergy suffers invited to have their say on four options put forward by the department.
Proposals included mandating full ingredient listing, allergen-only labelling, “ask the staff” labels on all products, or promoting “best practice around communicating allergen information to consumers”.
More than 70 per cent of individuals backed the option for full ingredients labelling, Defra said, and recent advice from the Food Standards Agency recommended full ingredients labelling.
Mr Gove called Natasha’s parents an “inspiration”.
“Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse have been an inspiration in their drive to protect food allergy sufferers and deliver Natasha’s Law,” he said.
“These changes will make food labels clear and consistent and give the country’s two million food allergy sufferers confidence in making safe food choices.”
Heather Hancock, chairman of the Food Standards Agency, said the change will mean “better protection” for allergic consumers.
Allergy UK chief executive Carla Jones also welcomed the announcement, saying the national charity was “delighted” with the legislation.
“This move towards full ingredient labelling for pre-packed direct-sale food will improve the lives of the allergic customer and it is warmly welcomed here at Allergy UK,” she added.
Defra said food businesses across the country had already taken steps to improve food labelling and were urging outlets to do all they can ahead of the implementation date to help consumers make safe food choices.
Reporting by the Press Association