Ignoring Food Safety Legislation Can Lead To Harsh Penalties

The UK food safety legislation is composed of several parts.

The main piece of legislation is, or rather was, the Food Safety Act 1990.  I say was as further legislation introduced during 2004 and subsequently 2006 have since superseded the main act.  The Act, however, is still classed as the principle of legislation.  It was agreed by the British Government and accepted as law.  As with all Acts, they tend to be complicated, skeletal, difficult to understand and is a framework on which other items of legislation build on.  These other items of legislation include EU directives, where a member state, Brussels, issues regulations to put into place certain requirements.  EU regulations apply to all members of the European Community directly.  Finally, UK regulations are composed by ministers and civil servants and passed into UK law.  It is the regulations which “spell out” the Act in more detail.

The main regulations in operation concerning food safety, especially in catering, retail and manufacturing are:

-Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs.

-The Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006

-The Food Labelling Regulations 1996

-The Food Labelling (Amendment) (England) (No2) Regulations 2004.

The Food Safety Act has mainly been concerned with food standards and quality since the introduction of the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations.  Sections include the following:

-The provision of food that may harm health.

-The ability of enforcement officers seizing and holding food that is thought to be contaminated.

-Food not being of the nature, substance or quality expected by the consumer.

-Due Diligence defence.

-The ability to sample food.

-Enforcement officers are allowed to enter any food premises at any reasonable time without giving notice.

Details of penalties.

The penalties, if convicted in court, are: £20,000 fine and/or 6 months in prison or unlimited fine and/or 2 years in prison.  The former penalty is issued in a Magistrates Court, the latter in a Crown Court.

The UK provides a legislative system whereby Food Safety is covered under criminal law.  Criminal law is heard in either a magistrate’s court for less serious, summary offences or in a crown court for more serious, indictable offences.

Civil law deals with compensation claims, perhaps from consumers that want to sue a food company for causing food poisoning, which resulted in lost time from work, physical harm, or psychological damage.

Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs states that all general hygiene rules are the direct responsibility or the food business owner.  There must be strict controls in place to ensure that all high risk food is retained under refrigeration.  There must be a food safety management system in operation using the 7 principles of HACCP.

The Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 deals mainly with the enforcement of EU Hygiene Regulations such as the issue of improvement and prohibition notices by enforcement officers and the issue of orders by the courts.

The Food Labelling Regulations 1996 states that a food label must have the following information:

-Name of food.

-List of Ingredients.

-Best Before or Use By date

-Storage conditions

-Contact details of manufacturer/packer/seller.

This was amended or added to in 2004 with the Food Labelling (Amendment) (England) (No2) Regulations 2004.  This covers the labelling of food to include allergens such as peanuts, fish, etc.

Further information is available to provide more detail on the regulations, such as Statutory Codes of Practice which are provided by ministers for enforcement authorities and National Guided to Good Practice, developed by food business operators.