Food safety update from HABC/Greenwoods

HABC has teamed up with Greenwoods Solicitors LLP to provide you with a quarterly update on legal developments affecting food safety.

Greenwoods is one of the most respected names in the food safety business, with a renowned team of legal experts providing expertise on everything from the new regulator’s code to the horsemeat scandal, as well as key legal issues of the day.

Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013
These came into force on 31 December 2013 and apply to England only.  Since they are consolidating Regulations, they revoke certain provisions of the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 and the General Food Regulations 2004 and provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ for businesses and enforcement authorities to locate all the safety and hygiene provisions in one statutory instrument.

From January 2014, all enforcement action should be taken under these Regulations, i.e. food safety breaches, traceability issues, notices and orders etc.

Of interest are the powers of entry for an authorised officer which can be found at Regulation 16, whilst ‘due diligence’ defence is found at Regulation 12.

Action – find the regulations by clicking here.

Should you have any queries then do get in touch with Kathryn Gilbertson at Greenwoods Solicitors LLP on 01733 887621 or by email at kgilbertson@greenwoods.co.uk

Regulators’ Code
Previously known as the Compliance Code and prior to that the Enforcement Concordat, this was given statutory status on 6 April 2014.

Its aim is to promote good regulatory principles which reduce unnecessary burdens on business and increase the benefits that regulation can bring through transparency and accountability.  The Code promotes efficient and effective working practices by requiring regulators to have regard to the Codes’ principles, namely:

  1. Regulators should carry out their activities in a way that supports those they regulate to comply  and grow.
  2. Regulators should provide simple and straightforward ways to communicate with those they regulate and hear their views.
  3. Regulators should base their regulatory activities on risk.
  4. Regulators should share information about compliance and risk.
  5. Regulators should ensure clear information, guidance and advice is available to help those they regulate meet their responsibility to comply.
  6. Regulators should ensure that their approach to their regulatory activities is transparent.

Regulators must publish ‘service standards’ so that businesses know what they can expect from their enforcement officers. These will be published by the following regulators:

Action – you can find the code by clicking here.

Should you have any queries about how the code will apply to your business then please contact Charlotte Murray at Greenwoods Solicitors LLP on 01733 887620 or by email at clmurray@greenwoods.co.uk

Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines
There is a statutory obligation on every court to have regard to these guidelines when considering imposing a penalty in a relevant case, and to give reasons when imposing a sentence outside the range identified.

These guidelines were revised in March 2014.  Whilst no specific tariffs are specified for food safety cases, of interest are offences such as:

  • ‘Alcohol sale to a minor’ where sentences should fall in a range of a fine and/or community service together with consideration of additional orders including forfeiture or suspension of personal liquor licence – these sentences would apply when liquor is sold to a child under 18 years by a shop assistant; or
  • In the case of counterfeit sauces/relish, the penalties for the ‘unauthorised use of Trademarks’ include a fine and consideration forfeiture and destruction of the goods.

Action – should you have a case heading for the courts or have a query about possible sanctions for breach then do get in touch with Robert Starr at Greenwoods Solicitors LLP on 01733 887617 or by email at rlstarr@greenwoods.co.uk

Extension of Primary Authorities
On 6 April, Primary Authority relationships were extended to allow industry groups and trade bodies to set up primary authority relationships on behalf of their members.  A number of trade bodies, such as the British Frozen Food Federation, intend to apply to their local council to set up a primary authority relationship.  Such a relationship could cover trading standards, environmental health and fire safety issues.

Further, the List of Primary Authority Categories was revised to include categories as a result of changes made by the devoted administrations.  For example companies trading in Wales can seek advice from councils on single use carrier bag charges via the Environmental Protection category.

This minor amendment to the category description allows multi-site businesses to adopt a standard approach to compliance.

The category list is published by the Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO).  It supports the Primary Authority Statutory Guidance. The list defines the categories under which a local authority can be nominated as a primary authority.

Action – To access this list, simply click here.

For further information about how a primary authority relationship could help your business, then please contact Charlotte Murray at Greenwoods Solicitors LLP on 01733 887620 or by email at clmurray@greenwoods.co.uk

Professor Elliott’s Report
The interim report into the Integrity and Assurance of Food Supply Networks was published in December 2013.  The final report is expected in late spring, with dates in May and June being mooted.

Prof. Elliott was asked by the Secretaries of State for Health and the Defra to conduct a review into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks; to consider issues which impact upon consumer confidence in the authenticity of food products, including systemic failures in networks and systems with implications for food safety and public health; and to make recommendations.  This was not a review into the incidents relating to finding horse meat in beef products.

In the interim report Prof. Elliott states that ‘a significant change in culture is needed to deal with the threats of fraudulent activity that exist along complex supply chains.  My review to date has identified a worrying lack of knowledge regarding the extent to which we are dealing with criminals infiltrating the food industry.  I believe criminal networks have begun to see the potential for huge profits and low risks in this area.  The food industry and thus consumers are currently vulnerable.  We need a culture within businesses involved in supplying food that focuses on depriving those who seek to deceive consumers.  A food supply system which is much more difficult for criminals to operate is urgently required’.

Action – Read the report by clicking here.

Should you have any queries on how the recommendations may affect your business then do get in touch with Kathryn Gilbertson at Greenwoods Solicitors LLP on 01733 887 621 or by email at kgilbertson@greenwoods.co.uk

Look out for our next bulletin when we shall consider the impact of the Groceries Adjudicator.

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