Food safety regulations could lead to imprisonment

New guidelines that came into effect yesterday (Monday 1 February) for England and Wales mean that professionals within the food industry whose actions result in harm or risk of harm to consumers could lead to custodial sentences. 

The industry has been advised by Leatherhead Food Research to take reasonable measures in preventing supply chain fraud that could constitute ‘risk of harm’ in a court of law. Individuals found responsible for such crimes could be subjected to unlimited fines and up to two years in prison.

“By its very nature, food fraud undermines food safety protocols,” said Tony Hines, director of regulatory and crisis management at Leatherhead Food Research. “And from today, individuals who fail to maintain food safety face stiffer penalties.”

He suggested that established professionals within the industry should make it their duty to drive due diligence regimes and fraud mitigation strategies.

“Senior managers and directors have a personal duty of care to reduce exposure to fraud since it can be clearly associated with causing harm or risk of harm,” he added. “That means insisting on greater transparency and traceability to identify weak points in the supply chain, then implementing proactive control measures to curtail the threat.”

However, Leatherhead Food Research noted that the majority of food industry suppliers operate with integrity. Despite this, it is recognised that fraud is increasing on a global level and organised food crime is reported to be on the rise. It is said that there is no evidence proving that perpetrators deliberately sabotage food safety, although they do operate outside the regulatory frameworks safeguarding food.

In the aftermath of the 2013 horsemeat scandal, Issue 7 of the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety included new requirements relating to food fraud. As a result, manufacturers and retailers are now required to reduce their potential exposure to fraud by performing vulnerability assessments and introducing effective measures to fight the risk.

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