First easing of food inflation in 18 months
Food and drink prices rose by 16.8% in January, a slight easing on December’s rate of 16.9% . This is the first time in eighteen months that annual food and drink inflation is easing. On the month, prices continued to rise by 0.6%.
Further price influencers
The devastation of the earthquakes in Syria and Turkey; the damage to Turkey and Syria transportation infrastructure caused by this earthquake is set to cause further global shipping disruption and drive freight prices up
The National Pig Association NPA has stated pig producers needed lasting reform and a fairer trading environment. This came as the sector awaited the results of Defra’s consultation on the issues affecting the pig supply chain that closed in October last year. Pig Consultation July 2022.pdf (defra.gov.uk)
UK pig producers lost an estimated £750m due to a two year backlog caused by an oversupply of pigs arising as a result of rapidly declining export demand by China, and the lack of skilled butchers in processing plants and compounded by the outbreak of Covid-19.
The industry body is calling for contractual legislation, similar to what is planned for the dairy sector, and what egg producers are also demanding, in a bid to give pig producers greater rights when dealing with buyers.
The NPA’s reform wish list
1. Contractual practice needs to be underpinned by legislation to ensure accountability and deliver change for all producers and processors
2. Contracts should follow a framework to allow producers and processers/marketing groups to negotiate terms that work for both parties. The NPA has outlined four principles for contracts in line with the powers within the Agriculture Act 2020:
- Price needs to be fair, transparent and negotiable
- All parties should be able to negotiate a contract fairly
- One-sided clauses should be removed
- A mechanism for dispute resolution is essential
3. Penalties for out of specification pigs should not deliver a negative or zero value when contracted pig numbers have not been fulfilled
4. Better forecasting is needed to help inform business planning, including a mandatory monthly pig weaning survey
5. Processors should submit details of their contracted pig numbers to Defra for price reporting purposes
6. Full transparency is needed for price reporting mechanisms
7. Retail, food service and wholesale businesses should formally report the volume of cuts, carcase utilisation and origin of pork on a regular basis
8. Retail and food service companies need to commit to buying a reasonable proportion of the pig carcase and utilising more British pork from it for products within their supply chains to help improve carcase balance
Strawberries are to get pricier
Strawberries would soon become subject to a 10% tariff as the UK approached a quota limit from Egypt. The quota has been described as “not adequate to meet UK demands” by Fresh Produce Consortium CEO Nigel Jenney.
RSPCA Assured has launched a new TV ad push which calls on the public to support higher-welfare farmers this Pancake Day by purchasing RSPCA Assured eggs.
The campaign is part of the organisation’s bid to back RSPCA Assured egg producers during bird flu restrictions and to highlight that whether barn or free-range, RSPCA Assured eggs still offer higher welfare standards.
It comes as eggs sourced from the east of England can (as of the start of February) no longer be labelled ’free-range’ due to avian influenza bird housing requirements. They must now be labelled as barn eggs, with eggs from the rest of the country set to follow by the end of the month
New Medicines database to fight antimicrobial resistance
individual farms must legally record medicine use, however until now there has been no central online resource for collating this data at a national level. The new Medicine Hub database, created and managed by AHDB and accessible at medicinehub.org.uk, would centralise data and retain confidence, reputation and access to export markets in the face of rising levels of antibiotic resistance globally.
Gathering data on a voluntary basis also meant the UK could avoid the implementation of overly stringent mandatory guidelines,
Europe’s first gene-edited wheat trial produces up to 45% less acrylamide
The results of Europe’s first ever field trial of a gene edited (GE) variety of wheat have shown a significant reduction of the potential carcinogen acrylamide when the flour is baked..
Acrylamide is formed by a chemical process known the Maillard reaction when the amino acid asparagine – found particularly in starchy foods – is cooked at high temperatures. Nigel Halford at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, UK,used CRISPR gene editing to remove one of two genes necessary for making asparagine from common wheat plants. This has now been successfully replicated by open air planting and results in a reduction of some 45% of acrylamide in baked goods.
This shows the potential divergence with Europe that may result when the the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill - Parliamentary Bills - UK Parliament that is currently in the House of Lords is passed.
Please see our acrylamide food safety update Food Safety Management Systems to incorporate management of acrylamide - Mills & Reeve (mills-reeve.com) Food businesses must have practical steps to manage acrylamide within their food safety management systems under EU Regulation 2017/2158 . This establishes best practice, mitigation measures and benchmark levels for the reduction of the presence of acrylamide in food. The Benchmark Levels (BMLs) are set out in an Annex of Regulation 2017/2158. BMLs are generic performance indicators for the food categories covered by the Regulation. They are not maximum limits and are not intended to be used for enforcement purposes. BMLs are to be used by FBOs to gauge the success of the mitigation measures.
DeadHappy Ltd t/a DeadHappy
Upheld Social media (paid ad) 15 February 2023 DeadHappy Ltd - ASA | CAP
Two paid-for social media ads for a life insurance company irresponsibly caused serious and widespread offence and unjustified distress.
The ASA received 115 complaints.
DeadHappy Ltd apologised for any offence or distress caused and explained that the ads went live at 2 pm on 23 January and were taken down at 8 am on 24 January.
The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. They must not contain anything likely to cause serious or widespread offence, or incorporate a shocking claim or image merely to attract attention.
The ads contained an image of the serial murderer, Harold Shipman, a British doctor who it is estimated murdered between 215 and 260 of his patients.
The ads stated “Because you never know who your doctor might be … Sign up in 3 minutes … Prices from £1 a month … 2 months FREE”. Under the image of Harold Shipman was the advertiser’s name “DeadHappy” with text next to it which stated, “Life insurance to die for”. The ASA considered the above elements of the ads trivialised and made light of the murders committed by Harold Shipman, such that they were likely to cause both serious and widespread offence to those who saw them.
No matter how dark your humour may be there are certain boundaries that selling life insurance does not justify breaching.
Huel Ltd Huel Ltd - ASA | CAP upheld Social media (paid ad), Website (own site) 15 February 2023
A Facebook ad and website page for a meal replacement retailer misleadingly implied that eating meal replacement products helped save money on food.
The ads were seen at a time of worsening financial crisis, during which increasing energy and food costs, as well as rising inflation, were having a significant impact on people in the UK. The ASA considered consumers would view the ads in the context of that financial backdrop.
Advert (a), “Huel helps keep money in your pockets” and “An entire month’s worth of Huel works out at less than £50”, and the prominent text “WANT TO SAVE MONEY ON FOOD?” would be interpreted by consumers to mean that Huel products could be used as a way to save money on a monthly food bill, and that a month’s worth of Huel could be purchased for less than £50.
The ASA acknowledged the ad included the text “34 MEALS FOR £1.51 PER MEAL”, and that on the basis of eating Huel once a day, it would cost less than £50 for a month’s supply. However, that text was at the bottom of the image in a less prominent position than the claims referenced above.
Based on the overall presentation of the ad, the ASA considered it did not make sufficiently clear to consumers that the cost saving was only based on consuming one Huel product a day and was not the equivalent to a month’s worth of food covering all meals.
Comparison with other processed foods found to imply meal replacement: Advert (b), titled “Five Ways to Save Money on Food”, began with a few sentences discussing that “Eating healthily doesn’t need to break the bank” and to “read on for five ways you can save money on your food, while also getting all the good stuff your body needs to thrive”. The first section, headed “Embrace Processed Food & Meal Replacements” referred to the cost, product longevity and convenience benefits of processed foods, giving the examples of frozen and tinned foods such as fruits and legumes compared to their fresh or dry equivalents. This was followed by a paragraph about Huel, including the claim “while we’ll never call it a meal replacement, it is often thought as such in this context. Huel is another great example of processed food being able to save you money on food”.
In the context of the previous paragraph, the ASA considered that claim would be interpreted by consumers to mean that Huel products provided all the nutritional benefits of the types of processed foods referenced and could be eaten instead of ‘traditional’ meals that were based around such foods. It therefore implied that the products could save consumers money in the same way those other types of processed food products did when compared to fresh or dry ingredients – with the added convenience of being ready very quickly without the need for cooking equipment.
The ASA found the ad implied to consumers that the product was being used to replace a ‘traditional’ meal (in the case of ad (b) one which included processed foods), and not specifically a convenience food.
The ASA noted that one portion of Huel contained 400 calories, and therefore, in order for consumers to meet the average daily recommended calorie intakes, an adult woman would need to consume five portions per day and an adult male would need to consume slightly over six portions per day. For women, 150 portions of Huel across an average month of 30 days would cost around £350 (with more portions, at a greater cost, for men). Huel had not provided evidence to show that this would be a saving compared to a month’s worth of ‘traditional’ meals. For that reason we concluded ads (a) and (b) were misleading.
Additionally, the ASA considered that the ads did not make clear that a ‘traditional’ diet of three meals per day could not be directly replaced with three portions of Huel per day while still consuming sufficient calories. In that context the ASA concluded the ads were also irresponsible.
Mars Wrigley fined after workers fall into chocolate vat
Mars Wrigley in America has been fined £12,000 after two workers fell into a waist-high vat of chocolate.
Colleagues were unable to pull the pair out when they became trapped in the slowly solidifying confectionary
Two workers who were contractors had to be rescued after falling into a partly full chocolate vat. The two workers did not have any injuries as a result of falling into the vat. However, it noted local reports said that first responders had to help cut the hole in the tank as the two workers were “unable to get themselves out”.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Mars Wrigley in the accident on June 7, saying the workers were not authorised to work in the tanks and were not trained on the proper safety procedures for the equipment.
The workers were employed by an outside contracting firm and fell into the partially filled chocolate tank while doing maintenance work.
Whilst in this case the workers were not seriously injured this could have ended much worse for them. It is important that all visitors to site are given appropriate risk assessment and training. Any maintenance of machinery should use all precautions.
A prosecution of a global food business in the UK may have resulted in a far greater fine; the starting point for criminal sentencing guidelines Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences, Definitive Guideline (sentencingcouncil.org.uk)looks at the turnover of a company (rather than just the profit) and then culpability and harm.
The implementation and resources provided to a company’s’ food safety and management processes will directly affect the size of any potential fine by deciding on what level of ‘culpability’ the company may be found at. For example, ‘very high culpability’ will be found where there was flagrant disregard for the law and ‘high culpability’ where the company failed to put in place measures that are recognised standards in the industry; versus ‘low culpability’ where significant efforts were made to secure food safety although they were inadequate on the occasion in question. The ‘harm’ caused will be assessed within 3 categories, where there is widespread impact (such as in the horsemeat scandal) this is taken into account as the highest category 1 level in assessing the fine, even if there was limited food safety repercussions. Aggravating factors include where the offence was motivated by financial gain and again where there is evidence of wider/community impact.