Food allergies are rising. This means food manufacturers and restaurant owners must be vigilant in ensuring their food hygiene policies and procedures comply with rules and regulations. As a food hygiene lawyer, I can not only advise you on food hygiene law I can also provide an emergency response and robust representation should an incident occur.
Breaches of food hygiene regulations can lead to serious fines and completely shatter a business’s reputation. In serious cases, where death occurs, companies may face charges of corporate manslaughter.
My experience and understanding of both food hygiene and health and safety law means I can swiftly build a strong defence for trial and/or sentencing.
Having someone who gets things done and cares about your future on your side significantly increases the chance of obtaining a successful outcome. As my client, you can have full confidence that I will focus relentlessly on your case and provide support to you, your employees, and your family throughout what is undoubtedly a stressful process.
What are the most common types of food offences?
Food offences fall into two main categories:
- Rendering food injurious to health by adding any article or substance; using any article or substance as an ingredient; abstracting any constituent; or subjecting it to any other process or treatment, with intent that it shall be sold for human consumption (section 7, Food Safety Act 1990).
- Selling food not complying with food safety requirements (section 8, Food Safety Act 1990).
What is the definition of ‘injurious to health’ and ‘unfit for human consumption’ in relation to food safety law?
Much of the UK’s food hygiene law derives from Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002 (EC Regulation 2002). Article 14 states that “food shall not be placed on the market if it is unsafe”.
Food is deemed unsafe if it is unfit for human consumption or injurious to health.
Determining whether food is unfit for human consumption requires the Court to have regard to:
- the normal conditions of the use of the food by the consumer; and
- the information provided to the consumer regarding concerning potential health effects of a particular food.
Deciding whether a food is unfit for human consumption is not necessarily straightforward. For example, people in Britain may think wasps are not fit to eat, but wasp crackers/cookies are commonly eaten in Japan.
Under Regulation 2002, when deciding whether a food product is ‘injurious to health’ consideration should be given to:
- “not only to the probable immediate and/or short-term and/or long-term effects of that food on the health of a person consuming it, but also on subsequent generations;
- to the probable cumulative toxic effects;
- to the particular health sensitivities of a specific category of consumers where the food is intended for that category of consumers.”
I have the in-depth legal knowledge and experience to construct robust defences and/or legal opinions regarding all areas of the EC Regulation 2002.
What are the sentences for a food safety offence?
The maximum sentence if convicted in the Magistrates’ Court is an unlimited fine. If you are found guilty of a breach in the Crown Court, the maximum sentence is an unlimited fine and/or two years’ imprisonment.
If your organisation is convicted of corporate manslaughter, the sentence imposed can be severe.
If an enforcement agency such as a local authority successfully prosecutes an organisation for a food safety breach, the Court can issue a Hygiene Prohibition Order (HPO). This effectively shuts down the business. In most cases, at least six months must pass before the order can be lifted. On application for removing an HPO, the Court will consider whether it is appropriate to grant the request. If the application is refused, you will have to wait three months before reapplying.
An HPO can be made in addition to a fine. Furthermore, businesses found guilty of a food hygiene breach may face a civil claim launched by an injured party.
If you are being investigated or prosecuted for a food safety offence, it is imperative that you seek expert legal advice as soon as possible. I will work tenaciously to avoid a prosecution being brought. However, if prosecution is inevitable, as a food safety barrister, my experience and knowledge will ensure you have the best possible defence available.