Anyone who has an allergy or knows someone with one will be accustomed to the ritual of reading food labels. Skimming once, then going into the finer detail, then checking the bold text one final time before making a purchase or tearing open a packet of something.
It’s a ritual that could be the difference between life or death and one I’m accustomed to with a five-year-old who has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts and eggs (it seems that everything ‘may contain nuts’ these days).
But my child is not the only one as research shows that since 2010 the rate of childhood peanut allergies worldwide has risen by over 21%. A similar trend has occurred with other allergens and science can’t find an explanation.
It’s staggering therefore that it has taken until today for a bill, known as "Natasha's Law", to be introduced by environment secretary Michael Gove. It takes its name from 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who tragically died on a flight after suffering a severe allergic reaction to a sandwich. She and her family were, just like mine, accustomed to reading food labels religiously. However, under laws at the time, food prepared on the premises where it was sold was not required to list full ingredients, even if it contained dozens of potentially lethal allergens. A loophole that cost Natasha her life.
According to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the new legislation in Natasha’s name will require all food businesses to clearly label the full ingredients of pre-packaged food, and is set to come into force by summer 2021.
It comes at the right time, as research from Mintel found that almost half (48%) of Brits are unsure whether or not allergen labels are clear, and a further 15% have no confidence in them at all. Sixty-seven per cent of young people (aged 16 to 24) with a food allergy reported being aware of the legal requirements of food businesses to provide allergen information, but only 14% said they feel confident to ask for it and 14% reported not feeling confident at all.
This is not good enough and today’s announcement goes some way towards addressing the lack of awareness of the potentially lethal consequences of mislabelling – or not labelling at all.
Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme this morning, Natasha’s parents were dignified and eloquent in celebrating this win for consumers and allergy sufferers. Despite their loss, they say that a light has finally been shone on an issue which to date has been too easily dismissed. There are two million people living with allergies in the UK and the numbers are rising. In the words of Natasha’s father: “There is a very real need for society to start taking this disease seriously and the time has come for the food industry to stop, listen and do what is right to gain the trust of millions of their customers.”
Boris Johnson said yesterday in an interview with the BBC that he is almost certain that the UK will not leave the European Union without a deal. The favourite to replace Theresa May as prime minister added that May’s Brexit deal is “dead” and that a new agreement is possible before the end of October considering the changes in the political landscape both at home and in the EU. In the event of a no deal exit, he admitted that the country would need EU cooperation to avoid a hard Irish border, as well as disruptive trade tariffs.
US president Donald Trump signed off new “hard-hitting” sanctions against Iran, partly in response to the attack of an unmanned US drone last week. The announced punitive measures, which are aimed at increasing pressure on Tehran after its nuclear threats, now target Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, denying him and other top officials access to financial instruments and locking up billions of dollars in Iranian assets. A spokesman at Iran’s foreign ministry warned that the US decision to impose sanctions on the supreme leader closed the path to diplomacy between both countries.
A study by the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission revealed that 39% people in high-ranking jobs in British politics, the judiciary, media and business have been privately educated, compared with seven per cent of the general population. Some commentators have described the figures as “scandalous”, with Luke Heselwood from the Reform think tank claiming that “the UK is far from being a meritocracy”. According to the research, 65% of senior judges, 57% of members of the House of Lords, 52% of Foreign Office diplomats, 39% of the cabinet, and 43% of the 100 most influential news editors and broadcasters went to fee-paying schools.
Business & Economy
Health and beauty retailer Boots is set to replace plastic bags with unbleached, brown paper bags as standard carriers. The decision, which will help get rid of 900 tonnes of plastic from its stores every year, comes a month after the company had been criticised by MPs for substituting paper prescription bags with plastic. The new paper bags will be introduced at 53 of its stores this week and extended to all 2,485 outlets by early 2020. The retailer also announced that profits from the 5p, 7p and 10p bags will be donated to charity Children in Need to help disadvantaged children across Britain.
App-based bank Monzo raised £113 million of fresh funds, doubling its valuation to more than £2 billion in eight months. The success of the investment round, which was conducted by the growth fund Y Combinator Continuity, shows that investors are still betting on financial technological start-ups. The British digital bank said it would invest the cash in boosting its growth in the US market, where it launched earlier this month, and enhancing product sustainability and development as it moves towards signing up 250,000 new users this month. (£)
The Information Commissioner (ICO) fined mobile network EE £100,000 for using text messages without the consent of its customers to encourage them to use the firm’s app and upgrade their handsets. Despite EE´s claims that it believed that the messages were service-related and not direct marketing, the ICO said that electronic marketing rules apply if a message includes promotional material – an action that could lead up to £500,000 fines. EE accepted the ICO ruling in a statement, in which it apologised to its customers and said that it aimed to improve its services.
What happened yesterday?
London stocks edged higher on Monday amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US and as investors look ahead to the G20 summit this week. The FTSE 100 was up 0.12% at 7,416.69, while the pound was weaker against both the dollar by 0.15% at $1.27236 and the euro by 0.34% at €1.1172.
Lingering tensions between the US and Iran are affecting trade optimism following the announcement by President Trump that he would impose new sanctions on the country’s supreme leader and other top officials. Meanwhile, the G20 meeting, which begins on Friday in Osaka, is very much in the focus of market participants as they wait on the possibility of an agreement between China and the US after months of conflict over trade.
Admiral (up 3.74%) and Hastings (up 1.79%) closed on the green yesterday after Barclays upgraded to and reiterated their ‘overweight’ rating respectively. On the downside, BT Group (down 3.25%) plunged following a stock recommendation downgrade by broker Deutsche Bank from ‘hold’ to ‘sell’ with a 175p target. Cruise operator Carnival (down 1.23) was also among the losers after Barclays downgraded it to ‘equalweight’, while changes in the UK mobile market hit Dixons Carphone’s (down 2.93%) shares.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Wall Street stocks closed with mixed results leaning downward. While the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose just 8.4 points higher (0.03%), both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite were trading 0.17% and 0.32% weaker by end of session.
What's happening today?
Afarak Group (DI),
Aberdeen New Thai Inv Trust,
Asiamet Resources Limited (DI),
City Merchants High Yield Trust,
Fireangel Safety Technology Group,
Foresight Solar Fund Limited,
Maruwa Co Ltd.,
North Atlantic Smaller Companies Inv Trust,
NB Distressed Debt Investment Fund Limited,
NB Distressed Debt Investment Fund Limited Red Ord,
NB Distressed Debt Investment Fund Limited Ext Shs,
UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) BBA Mortgage Lending Figures
Int. Economic Announcements
(15:00) Consumer Confidence (US)
(15:00) New Homes Sales (US)
Source: FTSE 100, Financial Times
Columns of Note
Sara Tor argues in The Times that the victory of opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu in Saturday’s Istanbul mayoral election proves that democracy is still present in Turkey despite recent moves towards autocracy and corruption, allowing it to regain some lost dignity. While Tor concedes that Erdoğan and his party (AKP) are still very popular among Turkey’s ageing population, economic recession and tensions over immigration may have led older generations to no longer see the AKP as the best option. Tor concludes that the charismatic Imamoglu represents hope for a healthier Turkey as a potential candidate to supplant Erdoğan. (£)
Writing in The Guardian, Cambridge historian Christopher Clark, Boris Johnson’s former boss at the Daily Telegraph, opines that the Conservative hopeful is “unfit for national office” as he only cares for his own fame and gratification. Clark says Johnson is unable to confront the truth and claims that the scrutiny of his domestic affairs over the weekend is only the tip of the iceberg. On Jeremy Corbyn, the Cambridge scholar says that the Conservative Party would be “deservedly doomed” if the opposition party was led by anybody else.
Cartoon source: The Times