Food and Agri Update Friday 17 March

The Budget

For many food and drink manufacturers and producers there was some good news – the 50% cut in business rates for small businesses, the simplification of alcohol duty,  cancelling fuel duty rise, the additional support for R&D.  However, it was pointed out there are mixed aspects of this.   James Bielby, CEO, Federation of Wholesale Distributors:  “The 50% business rates discount for retail, hospitality and leisure is to be welcomed but this discount must also apply to the food and drink supply chain.

Business tax

Corporation tax - The Chancellor confirmed that the main corporation tax rate will increase from 19% to 25% with effect from 1 April 2023.

Capital Allowances - The super-deduction regime will be replaced from 1 April 2023 with ‘full expensing’ - 100% capital allowances for qualifying plant and machinery.  This will last for three years, to 31 March 2026, although the Government indicated that it is their ambition to make this permanent.  The Government will also introduce 50% first year allowances for ‘special rate’ plant and machinery, including long life assets. These rules apply only for corporation tax purposes, and will not be available for businesses which are subject to income tax, unless they are below the Annual Investment Allowance threshold of £1m per annum.

The Government has also confirmed that the 100% first-year allowance for qualifying expenditure on electric vehicle charge-point equipment will be extended until 31 March 2025 for corporation tax, and 5 April 2025 for income tax.

Research & Development - From 1 April 2023, a higher rate of relief for loss-making R&D intensive SMEs will be introduced

Investment Zones - The Government has announced 12 Investment Zones across the UK, with the stated aim of helping drive economic growth and “levelling up” the country. The confirmed locations include the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, the North-east, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, East Midlands, Teesside, and Liverpool.

Each English Investment Zone will have access to £80m over 5 years, including a single five-year tax package matching that in Freeports (enhanced rates of Capital Allowance, Structures and Buildings Allowance, and relief from Stamp Duty Land Tax, Business Rates and Employer National Insurance Contributions), and grant funding to address local productivity barriers.

The Government will work with the devolved authorities to support the introduction of Investment Zones in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Energy - The Treasury confirmed that the energy price guarantee will be extended for a further three months from April to June at its current level for consumers. 

As from April 2023, for 12 months, businesses will receive a discount, rather than a cap on prices being applied, when energy prices are high. Under the discount scheme, businesses will benefit from a discount of £19.61p/kwh for electricity and £6.97p/kwh for gas.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) had last week called for Hunt to prioritise domestic food production as “energy, fuel and other production costs continue to soar”.  President of the union Minette Batters called for him to extend the Energy and Trade Intensive Industries (ETII) scheme to include energy intensive sectors like horticultural and poultry production. This did not get included in the budget.

Nuclear /Carbon Capture - Jeremy Hunt announced £20 billion in support for the early development of CCUS (carbon capture, utilisation and storage) which will pave the way for CCUS all over the UK by 2050, he said.

Jeremy Hunt said the UK is in need of “another critical source of cheap and reliable energy, and that is nuclear”.  He said, that subject to consultation, nuclear power will now be classified as environmentally sustainable.

Alcohol duties - A blanket alcohol duty freeze will end on 1 August, meaning levies will rise in line with inflation at 10.1%. The effect on prices will be coupled with increased duty on higher strength drinks planned as part of reforms of alcohol duty unveiled in 2021.

This will mean a 44p increase in the price of a bottle of wine with an ABV of more than 12.5%, according to the Wine & Spirits Trade Association (WSTA), while a bottle of vodka could rise by 76p and port may be £1.30 more per bottle.

A smaller number of drinks will go down in price, including 14p off a 5% pre-mixed can of G&T and 7p off sparkling wine at 12%, while the government has said there will be transitional arrangements for the hardest-hit products

There is a duty cut for beer with the discount rising from 5% to 9.2%.  The duty cut will shave 11p off draught beer compared with beer sold in supermarkets. “British ale is warm but the duty on a pint is frozen”. Whether this is sufficient for hosptiatlity to offset other costs will remain to be seen.

Food and Drink Statistics

This was updated 14 March and is available at Food statistics in your pocket - GOV.UK (

The 10 most common concerns listed were: Food prices 66%, Food waste 60%, The amount of sugar in food 59% Animal welfare 54% Food hygiene when ordering takeaways 51% Food hygiene when eating out 50% The amount of fat in food 50% The amount of salt in food 49%  Hormones, steroids or antibiotics in food 46% Food poisoning (e. g. salmonella and e. coli) 43%

ASA Rulings

Health Claims

The health and nutrition claims regulation Regulation (EC) 1924/2006, and UK CAP Code defines health claims as those that stated, suggested or implied that a relationship existed between a food category, a food or one of its constituents and health. Only specific health claims authorised on the Great Britain nutrition and health claim (NHC) register (the GB NHC Register) could be made in ads promoting food or drink products. Any authorised health claims made in an ad must meet the associated conditions of use.

Additionally, general health claims, which were claims that referred to the general benefits of a nutrient or food for overall good health or health-related well-being, must be ‘accompanied’ by a specific authorised health claim.

Also the CAP code and legislation prohibited claims that stated or implied that a food could prevent, treat or cure human disease.

Tonic Nutrition Ltd t/a Tonic Health

Upheld Internet (video) 15 March 2023  Tonic Nutrition Ltd - ASA | CAP

A TikTok post by vitamin drinks company broke the rules by implying that their food products could prevent, treat or cure human disease. “help your immune system fight back” and “fuel your immune system to fight the virus”. The ASA considered consumers would understand from the ad that consuming the product could treat or cure viruses.

Willys Ltd t/a Willy's ACV

Upheld Internet (website content), Social media (own site) 15 March 2023

Six ads for an apple cider vinegar made claims which were not authorised on the Great Britain nutrition and health claims register.  Willys Ltd - ASA | CAP

This is mainly useful for the variety and range of claims examined by the ASA all of which had coplaints upheld against them.

Claims included:  (a) “Live probiotic foods good gut apple cider vinegar, blends, shots & drinks”, “Our organic Apple Cider Vinegar is powerful stuff and has made a huge difference to me. It’s helped me lower my cholesterol and lose weight. I feel better than I have for years.”, “Join the 60 Day Challenge feel the difference to your wellness. Every Drop of Willy’s Apple Cider Vinegar is loaded with premium live probiotics to boost gut health and help you feel fantastic”, “Add a daily dose of natural goodness to your routine”.

A page titled “The Story” included the claims “What Has It Done For Me? People ask me if I’ve had my ACV tested and verified. YES in that I can vouch for the benefits myself, it’s changed my life. I take 25 ml daily with fresh beetroot juice and I’ve lost 3 stone, I have lowered my cholesterol, increased my energy levels and I sleep better”. Further down the page was text that stated “I also believe the science of how a mildly acidic product like ACV can shrink swelling in the body, hence why people like Sir Ranulph Fiennes claim it helped relieve his arthritis symptoms”.

An FAQ page included the claims “IS APPLE CIDER VINEGAR VERY ACIDIC? … ACV is claimed to help balance ph in the gut, leading to improved digestion”.

A listing for an “APPLE ACV KOMBUCHA DRINKS CUBE” featured the claim “Gently energising and rejuvenating”.

A listing for “ORGANIC LIVE TURMERIC & HONEY APPLE CIDER VINEGAR” stated “… an anti-inflammatory wellness tonic with adaptogens and gut-healthy goodness! The black pepper … helps with the absorption of all-important curcumin in turmeric”.

b. A post on Willy’s ACV’s Facebook page on 15 February 2022, stated “Struggling to fight a pesky cold? Or maybe you're trying to find something to incorporate into your daily routine, to avoid the terrible winter flus? Get yourself a bottle of our Fire Cider! Loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, this ACV is a flu season must have! #ImmuneSystemSupport #FluSeason #GutHealth #AppleCiderVinegar #WillysACV”. An image accompanying that text included a list of ingredients and made claims about each ingredient including, “Horseradish – known to boost circulation and clear mucus, horseradish can also help with digestion and speed up your metabolism”, “Garlic – this ingredient has reports of helping to lower blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and may also support your immune system”, “Ginger – loaded with antioxidants, ginger can help fight high blood pressure and can also help promote healthy aging”, and “Turmeric and Cayenne pepper – turmeric is known to contain anti-inflammatory properties. Cayenne pepper contains many nutrients, beneficial against infections”.

c. A post on Willy’s ACV’s Instagram account on 1 March 2022 stated “Loaded with all the good stuff that your body needs, such as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, you're really missing out”. The post featured an image of a bottle and text that stated “Turmeric & Black pepper – when paired together will better the absorption of curcumin. Overall loaded with anti-inflammatory properties & boost digestion” and “Honey – the vitamins in both honey & ACV can help boost the immune system and also play a part in bone & heart health. It can also help with memory & cell production”.

d. A post on Willy’s ACV’s Instagram account on 10 December 2021 stated “With the nights drawing in, days getting shorter and flu season taking hold, now’s the time to focus on our immunity and what we can do to prevent getting ill this season. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been used as a natural remedy for centuries – with claims ranging from reducing cholesterol levels, helping arthritis symptoms, and even improving heart health. However, recent research and anecdotal stories have suggested that ACV may also help reduce the symptoms of, or even prevent, colds and flu”.

e. A post on Willy’s ACV’s Instagram account on 8 November 2021 stated “… Apple Cider Vinegar is great for curbing sugar cravings. ACV contains acetic acid known mainly for its antimicrobial properties … some research shows that it may also help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, which can lead to a reduction in sugar cravings”.

f. A post on Willy’s ACV’s Instagram account on 29 October 2021 included the claims “Billions of cells including bacteria, viruses and fungi reside in our guts and are responsible for many vital bodily processes … However, certain factors (such as alcohol, stress, lack of sleep etc) can lead to gut dysbiosis. This is when there is an imbalance of good and bad bacteria … Unfortunately, alcohol can have harmful physical and mental effects when consumed in large amounts. And in terms of gut health, some research shows that chronic alcohol consumption can lead to gut dysbiosis … some studies show that alcohol can kill off some of our good gut bacteria, causing an imbalance in bacteria. So what are some helpful tips?”.

The post went on to include as helpful tips “Rebalance your microbes by eating a diverse diet rich in live and fermented foods/drinks […] Because our ACV is alive with our 300 year old mother, getting your daily dose of ACV can help to repopulate some of the good bacteria in your gut”.

Precautionary Labelling and Allergens 

A recent coroner’s report (December 2022) into the death of Celia Marsh after she ate a Pret a Manger sandwich called for more ‘robust’ allergen labelling particularly for precautionary labelling such as ‘free from’. This has now been followed up by a letter from businesses providing support for the coroner’s findings, as reported by the Grocer, NARF Letterhead (  

Celia Marsh, who died from a reaction to dairy after eating a vegan flatbread from Pret a Manger. The item was labelled as ‘vegan’ but was later found to contain contaminated coconut yoghurt.

1. Clarity on absence of allergens and thresholds

Food retailers said they agreed with the coroner’s conclusion that there must be a more robust system to confirm the absence of the relevant allergen, and an FSA consultation should take place into the changes required.  “The FSA now needs to make a clear decision on thresholds and a strong recommendation to ministers…. This would provide sellers of food with an absolute definition of how much of a specific allergen pre-packed food could safely contain before being labelled as free of that allergen.

The FSA is reviewing the international guidelines for allergen thresholds and has consulted on this Precautionary Allergen Labelling consultation report ( This is due to be completed by the end of 2023 and the FSA have stated this will then feed into a system for precautionary allergen labelling.  “We have set out plans to standardise the use of precautionary allergen labelling, help businesses manage allergens effectively, and drive up practices in the non pre-packed sector.”

2. Rapid reporting

The second recommendation was to ensure a more robust system for the rapid reporting of fatal and near fatal severe allergic reactions. Celia Marsh’s death in 2017 was not immediately reported either to Pret a Manger or the relevant authorities.  The letter called on the UK to implement mandatory reporting of food-related anaphylaxis – like exists for infectious diseases – to ensure not only a more rapid and accurate investigation of cases, “but also allow more rapid action to be taken by food businesses if a valid concern is identified”.  This system would require the reporting of cases of anaphylaxis by medical staff, and would therefore likely come under the remit of the health department.

Easter Recall of Chocolate Eggs

Card Factory is recalling the eggs because the ingredients list on the packaging of some of these  products may have been incorrectly printed only in Polish.

As this product contains peanuts, milk and soy; and may  contain other nuts, eggs, and cereals containing gluten, it is  a possible health risk to anyone with a specific allergy or intolerance to these ingredients.  2106510-Product-Recall-Poster-V2-002-007.pdf

Beef Fraud

Derbyshire-based Loscoe Chilled Foods has confirmed it is the meat supplier involved in a beef fraud investigation by the FSA’s National Food Crime Unit to Booths supermarket. The National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) – part of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) – is carrying out the probe (Project Hawk) and revealed that a supplier has been selling “large volumes” of pre-packed meat and deli products from South America and Europe to the retailer.  The NFCU’s investigation alleges the imported beef was labelled and sold as British, being sold to consumers as “best British beef”.

Whilst not a matter of food safety this is a matter of food fraud and would involve consumers being sold food not of the quality demanded and food that is falsely described. It underlines the premium that origin labelling attracts for consumers and higlights this as a risk factor in food fraud.


It has been reported in the Grocer 14 March FSA set to validate thousands of CBD products | News | The Grocer that thousands of CBD novel food applications are set to be validated by the Food Standards Agency, almost a year after it released a list of temporarily compliant products.

The validations would be a significant development for the CBD category, which has has been marked by significant confusion in recent years, and so it is hoped that these reports are accurate and there may be more certainty across the board in the novel food sector within the UK.

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Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

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