Forward-thinking food labelling
How the catering team at Royal Lancaster Infirmary is ready for Natasha’s Law with a little help from LabelLogic Live

In the healthcare setting, hospital catering teams have a particularly close relationship with food and nutrition labelling to safeguard the health and wellbeing of their patients and customers. They are also required to meet particular guidelines. CQUIN (Clinical QUality and Transformational INdicators) will come to mind here. This new law came into effect in April this year, which sets targets to reduce the volume of high fat, sugar and salt in food and drink in the healthcare environment. 

Hospital catering, along with all food businesses, will also need to include full ingredient labelling on all pre-packaged offerings. This is under Natasha’s Law, which is due to come into full effect by summer 2021. These legislative changes put labelling - and particularly allergen labelling - at the heart of the catering business. 

As inspiration on how allergen labelling can be done successfully, we caught up our client Jackie O’Brien, Hotel Services Manager Catering at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary. Part of the University Hospitals Morecombe Bay Trust, the main production site is at Royal Lancaster, with a catering staff of around 65. The team manage the production and service of sandwiches and boxed salads for the Trust, covering both patients and retail. 

Jackie has the perfect skills and experience for the role, beginning her career as a nurse and then moving into catering. When she saw the position at Royal Lancaster she was thrilled.

She said: “It’s such an interesting and varied role. No two days are the same, and I can get involved in different projects. I think that we’re a really forward-thinking and proactive business. The catering team is always thinking of ways to improve things for our customers and patients. 

“We have changed how patients are fed. The team used to plate up in the kitchen, but now we use a servery trolley. This really improves the experience of our patients both in terms of quality and service. We can be more flexible with portions and meeting patients’ requests too as we’re serving them on the spot.

“We’ve also introduced e-meals, an in-house electronic meal ordering service. It’s dramatically reduced food waste.”

In fact, for Jackie, their philosophy is all about improving the customer and patient experience. 

“For the catering team, it is all about improving the patient experience, the way we work, and the services we bring. We want to offer the very best to people who are not feeling at their best. We do whatever we can. 

“For instance, we offer a variety of menus to cater for every need. There is a set menu, a ‘little of what you fancy’ menu for long-stay patients, finger food for dementia patients, soft and pureed food. It’s a case of managing all the different requirements.” 

What about Natasha’s Law?

The Royal Lancaster Infirmary’s catering team are really part of a forward-thinking Trust. After the tragic case of Natasha Ednan-Laperpouse in July 2016, they made changes before new legislation had even been proposed. LabelLogic Live, Planglow’s labelling software, was introduced to help manage this process and design and print allergen and nutritional labels effectively.

Jackie told us: 

“Three years ago, after this tragedy was reported, we decided we needed to give more information to our customers about nutrition and allergens. 

“We were using Planglow packaging, so we talked to our account manager, Vicky about what label software was available. She gave us a demo of LabelLogic Live and showed us what we could do with it. 

“LabelLogic Live is easy for the staff to use. They’re all trained up with their own logins, but it’s great because we can manage what they have access to. It took a bit of time to set up but Vicky, our account manager, supported us really well. We rolled it out in stages, which made it easier.”

Allergen labelling that works

The Royal Lancaster Hospital currently use two own design foldover roll labels, which allows them to display information on the front and back of the pack. They did not want to have too much allergen and nutritional information on the front, but just the critical product details and branding. 

Jackie said: 

“We use a similar design of sandwich labelling for the patients and retail but with different colours. The retail uses sealed sandwich packaging, and for the patients, we have clip bags. The label seals the sandwich, ensuring it does not pop open. We did not want too much nutritional or allergen information on the front. It fits perfectly on the back.”

Getting ahead of the curve with LabelLogic Live

LabelLogic Live updates instantly to meet legislative standards, so that food and drink businesses can be protected. For Jackie:

“LabelLogic Live has allowed us to get ahead on allergen labelling. We can also add calorie values to meet CQUIN legislation. The label design software has allowed us to put the information on sandwiches that we wanted to meet current laws and preempt what will be needed. It’s quicker for printing, and the labels are clearer. It does everything we need it to at the moment. Our customers have commented on the colourful bespoke labels and that the calories are now included.

“As we’re in a hospital, people do have a greater awareness about the nutritional value of what they are eating. However, there has been an increase in awareness of allergens over the last couple of years. All our staff can answer customer enquiries about allergens and are currently doing a Food Standards Agency training course.

“We started to think about what we were doing just after the tragic case of Natalie. I would say we’ve got ahead of the curve on this. We also offer allergy sheet menus for all the products as well as the labels.”

Listeria outbreak in other Trusts

Jackie and her team have also taken steps on their own initiative to mitigate against the risk of listeria. Of the recent outbreak in other hospital Trusts, Jackie said:

“It’s your worst nightmare. We brought all our catering in-house years ago because of a similar scare. We now have a screening programme, where we send random samples of meat, tuna and sandwiches for microbiological testing once a month.” 

What’s next for the hospital catering team?

The hospital Trust is in the town centre and faces the usual high street competitors as well as from the RVS shop on site. How do they plan to counter this? 

“We already offer daily specials with colour coded allergen information, discounts on coffees, loyalty cards, chef’s specials and meal deals at discounts to encourage customers.

“We’re also planning to redesign our dining room. We will be expanding our range with more made to order sandwiches, a hot section, and a salad bar. We will need labels for any new products, and we will, of course, need to ensure that allergens are labelled correctly.”

Jackie ends our conversation on a high note:

“Planglow has always been very helpful and friendly. We like the fact that we have access to support via the Live Chat or remotely. Vicky, our account manager, is very approachable and ready to help - we always feel supported.”

To find out how Planglow’s LabelLogic Live can help you take control of your labelling, contact us.

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