Food industry regulation - defence solicitors

Has your food business been threatened or served with an ‘Improvement Notice’ or ‘Emergency Prohibition Order’. Have you received summonses from the local authority requiring you to attend in relation to your food premises? Are you a food manufacturer facing allegations that your products are contaminated, wrongly labelled or otherwise defective?

Food hygiene and safety legislation affects all businesses in the food industry. This includes manufacturers of food as well as all different types of food sellers, from high class hotels and restaurants to burger vans. Anyone running such a business must have a detailed understanding of what is required in order to comply with this legislation and avoid the risk of investigation, or worse still, prosecution.

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Problem areas include

  • Making sure food premises and production processes are hygienic;
  • Ensuring safety controls are in place and maintained and identifying food safety hazards (eg. the safe storage of food);
  • Making sure equipment and premises are thoroughly cleaned and repaired regularly;
  • Providing clean lavatories, based away from food preparation rooms;
  • Ensuring staff have adequate hand washing facilities;
  • Ensuring the food preparation areas are adequately lit;
  • Infestation – make sure you have no animals you don’t know about living on the premises and put in place routine inspection by pest control experts;
  • Food storage – staff need to be fully trained to ensure they follow safety procedures including how to safely store food, and adopt strict procedures regarding the disposal of food which is no longer for consumption.
  • Food labelling – the rules concerning labelling of food are complex, and labels must be accurate and contain specified information, particularly so far as ingredients and additives are concerned. 
  • Food packaging – again, there are strict rules on food packaging and what materials can or can’t be used.  In addition, if your business manufactures food and has a turnover of over £2m per year it will be caught by the Producer Responsibility (Packaging Waste) Regulations which are enforced by the Environment Agency.

The most common problem for businesses serving food concerns the quality or cleanliness of the food preparation area.  However, cases which concern food manufacturing, such as the presence of a foreign object within an item of food, or the labelling of food products, are also fairly common. Few of us will have forgotten the recent horse meat scandal.  Whilst this case caused public outcry, because the meat concerned was fit for human consumption, this was essentially a case of mis-labelling. This could however be on such a serious level it could be classed as food fraud. This is where there has been deliberate mis-labelling in that cheaper products are being passed off as a more expensive alternative.

Whatever the nature of the problem, local authorities are very quick to act when businesses fail to comply with food safety laws. If your business finds itself facing action by the local authority (often working closely with the Food Standards Agency), then it is likely that the case will be covered in the local press. This type of adverse publicity can sound the “death knell” for the business concerned.

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The best way to ensure that a case does not develop is to take immediate action and get legal advice, even before prosecution. Some times we are able to avoid prosecution by liaising with the local authority on your behalf. Where prosecution cannot be avoided, we are able to advise you from start to finish, making sure we find the best solution possible for you and reduce the impact of any court action on your business.

Contact us today for a confidential discussion without obligation on 0203 816 9274 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you directly.

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