Do you know what is in the food you are selling?

May 1, 2014

This might sound like a simple question but many high street names and global brands such as Tesco, Ikea and Burger King have been hit by the horse meat scandal, highlighting that many businesses can’t answer this simple question. Furthermore, recent Food Standards Agency testing has found that many restaurants have been selling cheaper meats such as lamb. For some businesses this has been a deliberate act of fraud for financial gain, whilst for others, they themselves have been the victims of food fraud from their suppliers.

Food fraud is committed when food is deliberately placed on the market, for financial gain, with the intention of deceiving the consumer. Although there are many kinds of food fraud the two main types are: the sale of food which is unfit and potentially harmful, and the deliberate mis-description of food. It is important that you take steps to protect your business against food fraud. The reputational consequences and loss of consumer confidence can be disastrous, not to mention the possibility of legal action and criminal prosecution.

It can be difficult for the small retailer to have a testing programme in place, but it can have appropriate supply contracts to protect itself against any legal liabilities arising out of the supply of fraudulently labelled foodstuffs. The recent scandals and the associated legal actions which have arisen as a result demonstrate the inadequacies of many contractual arrangements. With the appropriate contractual protections in place it is possible to protect against most legal liabilities that may arise.

Retailers should also have in place a clear recall plan and have developed a communication strategy before an incident arises. Lastly, it may be possible to obtain insurance cover to address the risks.

Please note; the content of this article is for information purposes only and further advice should be sought from a professional legal advisor before any action is taken.

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