Food & Agri Update - 12 March 2024

Alcohol Duty Freeze – Budget

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed that alcohol duty has been frozen for a further six months, until February 2025 in last weeks budget. A 3% rise in duty had been due to apply from August.

Minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland to be raised

For the past six years, the price per unit of alcohol has been 50p but the Scottish SNP-Green coalition government is now proposing to raise it to 65p from 30 September 2024.

Minimum unit pricing (MUP) is not a tax but rather aims it to reduce the availability of cheap alcohol by setting a minimum price

  • It means the cheapest price a bottle of 12.5% abv wine can be sold for in Scotland will increase to £6.09.
  • The minimum price of a 500ml bottle of 4% abv lager, meanwhile, will rise to £1.30.
  • A bottle of 40% abv whisky will no longer be able to be sold for less than £18.20.

CMA – Infant Formula Market Study

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority has launched a market study into the supply of infant formula in the UK after finding prices had soared by 25% over two years.

The launch of a market study means the CMA will be able to use its compulsory information gathering powers, rather than rely on firms providing information voluntarily.

The CMA said it intends to conduct the market study as swiftly as possible and with the intent of publishing a final report in September 2024.

Vegan Labelling Campaign

FSA launches campaign highlighting risk of food labelled as ‘vegan’ to people with allergies.  

The FSA has launched a campaign ‘Vegan Food and Allergens Campaign’ to support people who have an allergy to milk, eggs, fish and crustaceans or molluscs. The campaign encourages people with allergies, or who buy for someone who has, to always check for a precautionary allergen statement such as ‘may contain’, on products labelled 'Vegan' to decide on whether it’s safe to eat. 

Emily Miles, CEO of the Food Standards Agency said: “Unfortunately, the reality of food production means there is still a risk of cross-contamination with animal-based allergens in vegan and plant-based products if produced in the same factory as animal-based products.  

Vegan labels are used to support a dietary choice, and do not intentionally contain products of animal origin. Vegan food could still be prepared in areas alongside products such as egg, milk, fish, crustaceans or molluscs - whereas free-from foods are not.  

Free-from: To use a free-from label, food businesses must follow strict processes to eliminate risks of cross-contamination so that they do not contain any of the allergen that they claim to be free-from.  

PAL: The FSA recently updated its food labelling technical guidance (Opens in a new window)for food businesses and industry. The update advises businesses to use a Precautionary Allergen Label (PAL) alongside a vegan label, if cross-contamination can’t be ruled out.  

More details about the campaign see: 

FSA launches consultation on Mechanically Separated Meat guidance

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has launched a public consultation seeking views on new guidance relating to Mechanically Separated Meat (MSM).  This guidance will explain how the definition of MSM in Annex I, point 1.14 of assimilated Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 should be applied.

The definition of MSM is given at Point 1.14 of Annex I to the Regulations Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin ( :

Mechanically separated meat’ or ‘MSM’ means the product obtained by removing meat from flesh-bearing bones after boning or from poultry carcases, using mechanical means resulting in the loss or modification of the muscle fibre structure.

Section V of Annex III to the Regulations Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin ( sets out specific requirements that must be met regarding the production of minced meat, meat preparations and MSM. There are requirements regarding production establishments, raw materials, hygiene (during and after production), and labelling.  For a product that is determined to be MSM, requirements in Section V of Annex III must be met for it to be placed on the market lawfully.

Food businesses should consider any additional legislative requirements (e.g., labelling requirements) as necessary.

Court Judgements on MSM:  The Courts have delivered judgments (together ‘the Judgments’ that precipitated this consultation.

(See Mechanically Separated Meat (MSM): Supreme Court confirms broad interpretation of MSM against Newby Foods for Pork & Chicken - Mills & Reeve ( and R (Newby Foods) v Food Standards Agency [2022] EWHC 1505 (Admin) – judicial review of product classification found there was no requirement that definition of “mechanically separated meat” only applied to fresh meat and did not include processed meat.)

Interpretation of the definition of MSM by the Courts:

The Courts have interpreted that the definition of MSM is based on three cumulative criteria, which must be read in conjunction with one another, when determining whether a product is MSM. A product that satisfies all three criteria is classified as MSM:

  1. The use of bones from which the intact muscles have already been detached, or of poultry carcases, to which meat remains attached; 
  2. The use of methods of mechanical separation to recover that meat; and 
  3. The loss or modification of the muscle fibre structure of the meat thus recovered by reason of the use of those processes. 

This new guidance by the FSA provides advice and clarification on implications of the Judgments. Draft guidance on mechanically separated meat (MSM): MSM definition | Food Standards Agency

It remains prohibited to use bones or bone-in cuts of bovine, ovine and caprine animals for the production of MSM, under Annex V of assimilated Regulation (EC) No 999/2001 (Opens in a new window) in GB, laying down rules for the prevention, control and eradication of certain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs).

Please see: Consultation on mechanically separated meat (MSM) guidance

The consultation closes on Wednesday 22 May 2024.

Consultation on a proposal to set a limit for ethylene oxide in food additives

Consultation on applications for authorisation of miscellaneous regulated products: four novel foods, three food additives, removal of twenty-two food flavouring authorisations, and a proposal to set a limit for ethylene oxide in food additives | Food Standards Agency

This consultation on four novel food and three food additive applications, also an application to remove the authorisation for twenty-two food flavourings and limit ethylene oxide in food additives to align with EU restrictions. 

Ethylene oxide can be harmful and is not approved for use in food. The chemical substance has multiple uses, including as a sterilizing agent and raw material in various products. When it is detected, the FSA and Food Standard Scotland (FSS) investigate and assess the risk on a case-by-case basis. 

The EU set a 0.1 mg/kg limit for ethylene oxide in all food additives in September 2022. 

If this limit were to be enacted a product withdrawal would be required for any food additive above 0.1 mg/kg. Also if levels for ethylene oxide are set at 0.1 mg/kg, the current limit of 0.2 mg/kg for another eight food additives will also be revised.  FSA and FSS should also be informed if any ethylene oxide is detected in infant formula.

The FSA has argued this would improve consistency across the industry and help trade with the EU. A contrary view would be that the use of assessment on a case by case basis has allowed proportionality and flexibility whilst still prioritising safety. 

Notably, in September 2020, ethylene oxide was found in sesame seeds originating from India, purportedly used to mitigate Salmonella contamination. Subsequently, the substance was discovered in other raw materials such as herbs, spices, calcium carbonate, as well as gums like locust bean, guar, and xanthan.  The repercussions were significant, with the EU witnessing its largest food recall operation to date. Even in 2024, recalls linked to ethylene oxide continue to be documented via the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). 

This revision to be in line with Europe may therefore result in more food waste and recalls where safety could still be maintained on a risk assessment individual case basis.

Responses to the consultation are required by March 25.

Farmer Protests

European farmers have been protesting the EU’s Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategy in agriculture and latest calls to cut livestock productivity to help achieve a net zero carbon target and plans to have a third of farm land organic by 2030. However, although the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, has promised action the present Commission’s mandate runs only until October, with European parliament elections in June.

Welsh farmers are showing “concern and worry” towards Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) proposals, according to NFU Cymru.

Defra have responded referencing their commitment to maintaining the £2.4 billion annual farming budget which will support farmers to produce food profitably and sustainably, while protecting nature and helping to meet our net zero ambitions.

We are also looking at ways to further improve fairness in the supply chain and support British farmers and growers, as well as ensuring customers have access to high-quality fresh British products.

As such, we have opened reviews into the food supply chains, to help make sure farmers and growers are paid a fair price for their produce. Reviews have already been conducted into the egg, horticulture, pig and dairy supply chains, with new regulations coming into effect later in 2024.

Support for farmers - Defra in the media (

NFU Conference – 20th February

Rishi Sunak attended the NFU conference and proposed a number of measures to help farmers

Food Waste

The government will be introducing a major fund of £15m to help redirect food surplus and stop it going to waste on farms.  Rishi Sunak stated the fund will be to stop “millions of tonnes of good, fresh farm food from going to waste”.

Food Security

The government has also announced £427m worth of support for farmers, including a package of funding for technology and productivity schemes.

It will also fund cost-saving energy measures, such as rooftop solar, to safeguard land for food production, and provide support for processing, packing and retailing on farms.

The government has pledged additionally to double the management payments for the sustainable farming incentive scheme and to “cut red tape” with new legislation in April around permitted development rights so farmers can develop buildings and diversify earnings through farm shops, commercial space and sporting venues.

Food Security Index

Plans to carry out an annual food security index were announced.  The index will capture and present the key data needed to monitor how the UK is maintaining food security and is expected to be UK-wide.

Rishi Sunak stated the annual index will be made statutory ‘when parliamentary time allows’. The first draft to be published at Number 10’s Farm to Fork Summit this spring.

Dairy Contracts – Adjudicator

The Fair Dealing Obligations (Milk) Regulations 2024 (“the regulations”) introduce mandatory minimum terms for dairy contracts and were laid before Parliament on 21 February.  The NFU expect the regulations to be fully in force for the whole industry around summer 2025. Dairy contract legislation – essential information – NFUonline

The regulation covers all cows’ milk sold by a dairy farmer to a milk buyer. (The regulations do not currently extend to non-cows’ milk products, such as goats’ milk.)

The legislation contains extensive powers for the Secretary of State to oversee and enforce the code. A farmer has the right to refer concerns about contracts which may breach the regulations to the Secretary of State.

Where the Secretary of State finds that there has been a breach of the regulations, they will be able to impose a financial penalty and/or require the processor to pay compensation to the farmer.

The Secretary of State has indicated they intend to establish an Agricultural Supply Chain Adjudicator, who will (among other things) enforce the regulations on behalf of the Secretary of State. 

NFU Dairy Board chair Michael Oakes has suggested this could ultimately be adopted across the wider farming supply chain - this would certainly help the farming community in supply chains with retail.  

GCA investigation

The Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) is investigating whether intermediaries are being used in the fresh supply chain by retailers to circumvent the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, The Grocer reported last month.

The move follows concerns raised by suppliers and politicians of all stripes that producers are falling outside the usual scope of GSCOP due to the employment of middlemen.

The GCA’s office has confirmed to the Grocer magazine it was “gathering information” on the issue.

HFSS Promotions consultation - Scotland

The food and drink industry in Scotland is facing restrictions on promotions of HFSS foods.

The new consultation Restricting promotions of food and drink high in fat, sugar or salt - proposed regulations: consultation - ( proposes banning all promotions of HFSS products. These would include bans on temporary price reductions and meal deals – measures Westminster moved away from due to the cost of living crisis.

Elsewhere the ban echoes the scrapping of HFSS promotions in prominent locations in England, but gives business 12 months to phase out the promotions of multibuy deals.

The Scottish government said it would use the same nutrient profiling model definition as that being used in England to define the products in scope.

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation welcomed the exemptions for retailers with fewer than 50 staff, and location exemptions for stores smaller than 2,000 sq ft. However, it warned that those hit by the regulations could be put at a significant disadvantage.

Scottish ministers blamed the “poor response” from industry to voluntary measures to make food healthier for going ahead with the proposals, with the plans due to come into force in 2025. The consultation closes on 21 May 2024.   

ASA Adjudications

Blanket restrictions on direct marketing of HFSS foods to under 16s

Product Ad placement and the boundaries of the 25% rule for under 16s & HFSS foods – What constitutes ‘all reasonable steps’?  Where does using data to create an audience (a mailing list for direct or email marketing​) fall? 

A recent Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) adjudication on Burger King ads looked at the requirements on marketers not to promote high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) products (see Food: HFSS Product and Brand Advertising) to under 16s.  It found that practical steps to actively exclude those who were under 16 were necessary, over and above simply stating the offer was not open to them, when it came to the creation of a mailing list for direct marketing.  Direct marketing restriction of HFSS foods to under-16s - Mills & Reeve (

BKUK Group Ltd t/a Burger King  BKUK Group Ltd - ASA | CAP 7 Feb 2024


The take home for marketers of HFSS products is

  • to require the completion of date of birth for targeted audience lists; and
  • an active removal of those under 16 irrespective of how small a percentage of the audience they may be. 

Claims “rustic”, “traditional” and “authentic” examined by ASA

Hovis Ltd t/a Hovis  Not upheld  Internet (website content), Social media (own site) 28 February 2024

Three webpages and an Instagram post were held not to have misleadingly used the terms “rustic”, “authentical”, “traditional”, “artisanal-inspired bread” and “no artificial preservatives”.  The ruling underlined the importance of context and specifying what part of the product or process the claim may relate to.  The ASA maintained their position that a consumer would have broad understanding of industrial mass production. Also, the importance for producers to have substantiated all the claims they use in advertising. Please see Claims “rustic”, “traditional” and “authentic” examined by ASA - Mills & Reeve ( for further detail.


National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) Priorities 2023/24 – Focus on the meat sector

The review of the NFCU's Control Strategy for 23/24 provided for a general focus of priorities in the meat sector. These were listed as follows: National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) - Annual Update | Food Standards Agency:

  • criminality in the red meat sector with a focus on beef, pork and lamb supply chains.
  • fraudulent activity within the chicken sector.
  • the diversion of meat and poultry animal by-products (ABP) back into the food and feed chain.
  • the entry of illegally harvested or misrepresented shellfish into the human food chain.
  • dangerous non-foods sold for consumption to UK consumers.
  • fraud relating to sustainable products and claims.

The main change to NFCU priorities in 2023-24 is the inclusion of chicken (based on intelligence and on insight from NFCU investigations).

3 cross-cutting themes which intersect with some of these priority areas were also retained within as part of the strategy, namely:

  • threats manifesting in food service supply chains and establishments.
  • the illicit servicing of community demand being met through unlawful processing and imports.
  • offending linked to or facilitated by intermediaries within supply chains.

Some of the NFCU's key priorities for the year ahead were stated to be the progression of investigations towards judicial outcomes and to secure additional powers, alongside working with the FSA on a wider holistic prevention approach. The NFCU plan to deliver an updated Food Crime Strategic Assessment in Spring 2024.

FSA prosecutes production manager who obstructed an NFCU officer

A women has been fined £500 for intentionally obstructing a National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) officer during an unannounced visit.  The NFCU, under the aegis of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), ensures that food is safe, accurately described, and that establishments are in compliance with food hygiene legislation.

Emma Nakova, from Northampton, was charged with the obstruction of an officer acting in the execution of the Hygiene Regulations on 15th December 2021. She pleaded guilty at Northampton Magistrates Court on 17th January 2024. 

The defendant, a production manager at Northamptonshire Food Services Ltd admitted obstructing the NFCU’s unannounced visit by delaying entry to the premises. 

Nakova was sentenced to a fine of £500, victim surcharge of £200 and full prosecution costs of £12,118.18.

This case underscores the significance of adherence to food safety regulations and the strict enforcement actions that can be imposed on those who obstruct official investigations.

On sentencing her, the judge said: “You were the production manager at this company, and you knew full well that you must open the door to those who are looking to see if there are any offences or anything untoward in that business. That's important because the agencies must know in order to protect public health if there is anything untoward going on at the premises.   I take the view this was wilful blindness to it which gives high culpability and a category 2 offence, aggravated by the state of some of the meat in production.”

Health and Safety

Farming company fined for fatality

A farming company, M.A.Forshaw Limited, involved in fruit and vegetable production has been fined £320,000 after Francis Schlachter, known as Frank, suffered severe head injuries when he fell from a skip at a farm in Burscough on 3 January 2020.

Frank had been tipping food waste into a skip from a container attached to a forklift truck (FLT). The container could not be securely attached to the FLT, which was known to detach from the vehicle during the procedure. As Frank attempted to manually assist in the operation, he was standing on top of the skip when the container slipped from the FLT causing him to fall to the ground, resulting in fatal head injuries.

Companies that use work equipment must manage the risks associated with its use. Detailed guidance on the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 is available. Guidance for those using lifting equipment for work is also available.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that M.A.Forshaw Limited had not fully assessed the risks involved in this daily task.   They also failed to maintain equipment in safe working order and to properly instruct staff in safe working practices.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. They were fined £320,000 and were ordered to pay £4,574 costs at a hearing at Wirral Magistrates’ Court on 1 February 2024.

Company fined after workers loses two fingers during work on a grain dryer

An engineering firm in Perth has been fined £10,000 after an employee lost two of his fingers.

The worker, employed by Edwards Engineering (Perth) Limited, had been carrying out maintenance work on a grain dryer at East of Scotland Farmers on 28 June 2020.

He inadvertently placed his hand into the blades of an unguarded rotary fan in the grain dryer.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into this incident found Edwards Engineering (Perth) Limited had failed to risk assess the task that the employees were required to undertake. On the day of this incident, there was no risk assessment for the work to be done nor was there any safe working procedure.

It’s important that clear information is given to workers when using machinery. Steps must be taken to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery. HSE guidance can be found at: Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) (

Edwards Engineering (Perth) Limited, Glenearn Road, Perth pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 22 of The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The company was fined £10,000 at Perth Sheriff Court on 16 February 2024.

Our content explained

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.

Posted by


Mills & Reeve Sites navigation
A tabbed collection of Mills & Reeve sites.
My Mills & Reeve navigation
Subscribe to, or manage your My Mills & Reeve account.
My M&R


Register for My M&R to stay up-to-date with legal news and events, create brochures and bookmark pages.

Existing clients

Log in to your client extranet for free matter information, know-how and documents.


Mills & Reeve system for employees.