Food industry leaders call for clearer food labelling rules

14 April, 2023

An open letter has been written by 11 of the UK’s leading food companies, including Pret a Manger, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Greggs, calling for clearer rules on food labelling and the implementation of a mandatory system to report food-related anaphylaxis cases.

The letter was initiated by the foundation created by the family of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, a 15-year-old girl who died after consuming a baguette containing sesame seeds from Pret a Manger. The companies’ concerns were also raised during the inquest on Celia Marsh, a dental nurse who died after eating a Pret a Manger wrap contaminated with milk protein despite being advertised as “vegan”.

The senior coroner for Avon, Marie Voisin, has cautioned that labels indicating the absence of certain allergens, particularly terms like “free-from” and “vegan”, can be potentially misleading. In response, 11 food companies have signed an open letter urging the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to provide clearer guidelines on allergen thresholds and to establish a mandatory system for reporting food-related anaphylaxis cases.

The companies believe that this would enable food producers to implement consistent industry-safety. The letter also notes that the failure to report fatal and near-fatal severe allergic reactions, such as the case of Celia Marsh, poses risks to consumers and hinders investigations. Marsh’s family expressed support for the letter, stating that these measures would make the world safer for allergy suffers like Celia.

Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, the father of Natasha and co-founder of Natasha’s Foundation, expressed his delight that many of the UK’s biggest food businesses have supported the call for real change following Celia Marsh’s death, stating that it demonstrates the industry's shared belief that the safety of food-allergic customers should be an absolute priority.

Ednan-Laperouse called on ministers, health chiefs and the Food Standards Agency to implement the coroner’s recommendations and do the right thing for the three million people in the country living with food allergies.

The letter has been sent to several organisations, including Downing Street, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Food & Drink Federation.

Michelle Victor, a partner at Leigh Day law firm representing both families, welcomed the support of the UK’s leading food businesses for these measures.

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