Enforcement of Food Safety Offences - Update

30th April 2020

In June 2019, an FSA report on the approach to regulatory enforcement and sanctions acknowledged that enforcement of food law has historically relied upon criminal sanctions. Whilst the report stated that “in relation to some lower level failures of compliance, criminal sanctions present a disproportionate and overly burdensome response”, the report accepted that criminal sanctions have broadly proven to be an effective means of securing compliance.

Whilst there appears to be general encouragement to utilise other civil enforcement tools, for example, statutory notices, it is evident that food prosecutions have and will continue to be brought against food business operators (“FBOs”). This is supported by recent statistics which indicate that in 2018/19, 296 food hygiene prosecutions concluded in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, representing an increase from 267 in 2017/18.

Of particular note is the individual number of prosecutions brought by specific local authorities. FSA food hygiene statistics indicate that the local authority with the highest number of concluded prosecutions in 2018/19 was West Somerset (47), followed by Birmingham (13) and Middlesbrough and York (both 11).

FBOs can be prosecuted for a wide range of offences. However, there are two trends which appear to be particularly relevant at present.

For more information please get in contact with our food safety lawyers;
Laura Shirley, Natascha Gaut and Prem Thakor.


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