New sentencing guidelines may expose food professionals to fraud culpability
Guidelines coming into effect in England and Wales will mean food industry professionals face possible custodial sentences for actions deemed to have caused harm or risk of harm to consumers.
Leatherhead Food Research is advising the industry that failure to take reasonable measures to prevent supply chain fraud may constitute ‘risk of harm’ in a court of law. Responsible individuals tried on indictment could be sentenced to unlimited fines and up to two years imprisonment.
The majority of food industry suppliers operate with integrity. However, it is acknowledged that fraud is escalating globally and organised food crime is reported to be on the rise.
There is no evidence that perpetrators deliberately sabotage food safety, but they do operate outside of the regulatory frameworks that safeguard food.
Following the 2013 meat adulteration scandal (commonly referred to as the horsemeat scandal) in Europe, new requirements related to food fraud were included in Issue 7 of the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety.
Manufacturers and retailers must now reduce their potential exposure to fraud by conducting vulnerability assessments and introducing proactive measures to counter risk.
Professor Tony Hines, director of regulatory and crisis management at Leatherhead Food Research, says the situation is complex. He recommends that senior industry professionals make it their business to drive due diligence regimes and fraud mitigation strategies.
“By its very nature, food fraud undermines food safety protocols,” Hines explains. “And from today, individuals who fail to maintain food safety face stiffer penalties. 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. 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.”
The Sentencing Council’s Definitive Guideline for Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences which comes into action today is available here.