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As consumers we expect and demand that our food is safe, wholesome and of a high quality. Food law is predominantly EU based and the law relating to how food is made, described and sold is complex and ever-changing. This creates significant challenges for businesses, regulators and lawyers alike.
Six Pump Court’s specialist food law barristers are instructed by the regulators and by food businesses and this gives each member of the team an understanding of the key issues for each particular client. We are able to quickly identify the important points and explain them in a clear and practical manner.
Due to the complex nature of the law we are frequently instructed at the very early stages of an investigation to provide legal, strategic and practical advice to regulators and to businesses. We are often involved in cases involving substantial public interest either due to the parties involved or the seriousness of the case. We work with solicitors and clients to adopt strategies which minimise the potential reputational damage caused by legal proceedings.
Our food law barristers have very close links to the Society of Food Hygiene and Technology (SOFHT) and the Food Law Group. Our barristers have experience of a wide range of food law matters including:
There are many different aspects to hygiene and food safety and barristers at 6 Pump Court have been working in the constantly growing area for many years.
This work includes general food law (Regulation (EC) No 178/2002), the hygiene of foodstuffs (Regulation (EC) No 852/2004) and hygiene rules for food of animal origin (Regulation (EC) No 853/2004). Helpfully there has been a recent consolidation of national laws in this area with the introduction of the Food Safety and Hygiene Regulations 2013.
A substantial number of the cases we deal with involve an alleged failure to comply with basic food safety requirements such as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP). Our barristers have a thorough understanding of the legal issues applicable to HACCP and we are able to explain these issues to clients in a clear and practical way.
We are instructed by enforcement authorities at national level (e.g. Food Standards Agency and DEFRA) and by local authorities throughout the country. Our barristers are also instructed by food businesses from along the food chain ranging from primary producers, to the retail and hospitality sectors.
Our experience extends to dealing with cases involving the closure of premises due to serious breaches of legislation and applying for and responding to applications for hygiene prohibition notices.
Recent work in this area includes:
• London Borough of Ealing v a food business manufacturer – for the defence in a prosecution under the hygiene regulations involving unhygienic premises
• Food Standards Agency v a slaughterhouse – for the defence in multiple prosecutions involving breaches of SRM requirements and hygiene regulations
• Food Standards Agency v Selfridges – for the prosecution and the defence in a case involving the sale of raw milk
• London Borough of Ealing v a restaurant – for the prosecution in a prosecution alleging unhygienic premises, lack of training and involving a food poisoning outbreak
• Food Standards Agency v a slaughterhouse – for the prosecution and for the defence in a case involving animal by-products
• Westminster City Council v a national supermarket chain – for the defence in a prosecution under the hygiene regulations
• R v a high street retailer – for the defence in a prosecution under the hygiene regulations involving a serious rodent infestation
• Westminster City Council v a national supermarket chain– for the defence in a prosecution under the hygiene regulations
• Food Standards Agency and a poultry producer – for the FSA in a High Court challenge against the withdrawal of an operator’s licence
• FSA v an abattoir – for the abattoir in a series of appeals against the service of enforcement notices
The law in this area includes general labelling (currently Directive 2000/13/EC), nutrition labelling (currently Directive 90/496/EEC) and nutrition and health claims (Regulation (EC) 1924/2006).
Our food law barristers have kept in touch with the significant developments in this area over recent years.
The law on general labelling and nutrition labelling of foods will undergo significant changes when the Provision of Food Information to Consumers Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011) comes into force in December 2014. We have presented at seminars and provided advice on the impact this new law will have for the food industry, particularly around the labelling of allergens.
The adulteration and deliberate mislabelling of food, often referred to as food fraud, has significant consequences for consumers and for compliant food businesses. One of our members was asked to provide input into Professor Elliott’s review into the horsemeat incident.
Our specialist barristers provide general compliance and regulatory advice, for example in connection with labelling requirements and food processes, in addition to being instructed within potential legal proceedings. We have experience in dealing with product recalls and withdrawals and the RASFF system.
Recent work in this area includes:
• Re: a food wholesaler – for the defence in a prosecution involving the alleged presence of undeclared allergens
• Re: a food sector organisation – advising in respect of the legality of various claims having regard to the nutrition and health claims regulation and the EU Register on nutrition and health claims
• Re: a food manufacturer – advising in respect of labelling requirements for food supplements
• Seminars – providing seminars to food businesses on the impact of the Provision of Food Information to Consumers Regulation
• Seminars – presenting at a seminar on EU food law and on updates in food law to a large organisation in the food sector
Extensive, and often complex and highly specialist, regulatory requirements protect crops and animals at the farm in order to preserve them and the industry from infection and to maintain welfare standards long before they become product in the food chain and thus directly subject to hygiene and labelling controls.
Our food law barristers are experienced in agricultural cases involving legislation such as the Animal Health Act 1981, the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007, for example:
• A judicial review testing the Plant Protection Regulations 2011 (made to implement EU Regulation EC 1107/2009)
• R (DEFRA by its agent, HSE) v Pirbright Institute – a prosecution of a Government-funded research centre of international standing for biosecurity breaches during repeated laboratory experiments to determine the ability of Foot and Mouth Disease Virus (a most infectious serious livestock disease, past outbreaks of which have been economically/agriculturally catastrophic) to cross-infect from one cow to another.
We also act in cases involving pets, domestic animals and working animals, whether under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 or other legislation such as the Dangerous Dogs Acts and whether or not involving the RSPCA.
Our Health and Safety team frequently acts in cases involving farm safety, our Public Law team can advise on remedies such as judicial review and our Planning and Environmental team advises regularly on agricultural planning and environment matters.