UK food businesses including Pret a Manger, Tesco, Greggs and Sainsbury’s have written an open letter addressing the transparency of allergen labelling on food packaging.

The letter, which news publication The Guardian says is addressed to officials, including government ministers, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Food and Drink Federation, argues the FSA needs to “make a clear decision on [allergen] thresholds and a strong recommendation to ministers.”

The Guardian says it adds that “this would provide sellers of food with an absolute definition of how much of a specific allergen pre-packed food could safely contain before being labelled as free of that allergen”.

The letter was organised by the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, which was named after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died in 2018 after eating a mislabelled baguette containing sesame seeds.

Natasha’s Law was launched in 2021, and made it a legal requirement for pre-packaged and freshly prepared food to have full ingredient labelling and allergen labelling on the packaging for full consumer transparency.

The issue was also highlighted during the inquest on Celia Marsh, who is said to have died from her dairy allergy after eating a “vegan” Pret a Manger wrap contaminated with milk protein. The coroner said at the time that labels implying the absence of an allergen – especially terms like “free-from” and “vegan” – were “potentially misleading”.

A comment piece written by the consumer analysts at Packaging Gateway’s parent company, GlobalData at the time, suggested the cases demonstrate the importance of mandatory allergen labelling for foodservice and FCMG brands to acknowledge on their packaging.

The analysts also highlighted that it confirms the ineffectiveness of labels if consumers don’t understand their meanings when making purchases.

Last week, the US Department of Agriculture released proposals for new regulatory requirements to give consumers clearer understanding on the ‘Product of the USA’ label.