UK Allergies on the Rise

A food allergy is a condition where exposure to allergen proteins in food induces an abnormal and harmful immune reaction. Far more serious than a food intolerance, although this can be very unpleasant, an allergy will often require medical intervention.

In the UK, an estimated 2 million people are living with a diagnosed food allergy according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in 2017. Research indicates this is set to rise. Food allergies have seen a steady rise in the past 30 years, especially in developed countries. For example, according to a study published in the New England journal of medicine in 2016, peanut allergies in the UK alone rose five-fold between 1995 and 2016.

These figures are of course worrying. What will be the impact to food processing if this trend persists? Will more laws and regulations have to be introduced for food manufacturers? Will food testing and labelling need to become more rigorous?

Natasha’s Law

Public concern recently led to a swift tightening of UK food labelling regulation. Natasha Ednan-Laperouse suffered a fatal allergic reaction to traces of sesame seed in the flour used for a baguette. Despite asking at the Pret a Manger counter at Heathrow Airport, and being assured sesame was not present, the 15-year-old collapsed and died on a flight to Nice on July 17 2016. This prompted the rapid introduction of “Natasha’s law”; legislating for all pre-packed and fresh food and drinks to clearly display a full list of ingredients and clearly marked allergens at point of sale.

This law will be enforced by Environmental Health Officers by mid-2021. it will cause a ripple throughout the entire food chain supply in the UK. Getting this message throughout the food chain and tightening up standards will present a problem in particular for small businesses, who were previously exempt.

Bakery items may have hidden allergens – with fatal consequences

Pressure on SMEs

This new legislation will mean food businesses’ of all sizes must implement a labelling and employee awareness system. While larger chains will opt for an electronic labelling system, many smaller businesses will need to use handwritten labels. This may lead to higher product expense, increased product preparation time and further employee training. All meaning a bigger headache for SMEs.

UKFoodWeb can help

However, technology can be used to make allergen & ingredients reporting as well as employee and customer awareness far easier for SMEs. UKFoodWeb seeks solve these issues in a convenient, painless and simple manner by providing an international database of product information and reporting accessible via a smartphone or pre-printed leaflet at point of sale.

UKFoodWeb QR smartcode provides smart access to allergen and ingredients labelling via a smartphone
Scanning the UKFoodWeb QR code quickly displays product information, including allergens

Producers can either directly enter information into UKFoodWeb or use our integration with A La Calc to, from a list of entered ingredients and provenance knowledge, create a ‘recipe’ which is then used to create EU and US conformant ingredient labels, traffic-light health labels and allergen reporting statements.

This information can then be imported into UKFoodWeb at the click of a button. Anyone with a smartphone can then directly access this information by scanning the UKFoodWeb QR Smart Code that could be displayed on a shelf hanger or at point of sale. This QR code also provides easy access to marketing videos, provenance information, recipe ideas and special offers that the Producer may wish to provide their customers.

There is also the added benefit that these labels – as well as product barcodes that can be generated by UKFoodWeb- can be downloaded from the Producers UKFoodWeb account for inclusion on product packaging, thereby saving on packaging production cost!

Customers can also search via UKFoodWeb for products that are guaranteed not to include specific allergens or that meet their personal belief system. This is a huge time saver – no more hunting for glasses to read the label, or searching fruitlessly via search engines. Simply search via UKFoodWeb and only products guaranteed OK for you and shown.

UKFW application is able to filter out products that contain specified allergens
The UKFW app allows you to filter out products that contain selected product allergens.

UKFoodWeb is designed to directly address key issues facing the UK food and drink sector today. We aim to save time and solve headaches for SMEs, who comprise 97% of the food and drink sector, in supporting their customers needs.

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