Defra – all change! Steve Barclay and Food Waste
Following Rishi Sunak’s recent reshuffle Steve Barclay is now minister at Defra taking over from Thérèse Coffey.
Steve Barclay becomes the ninth Defra minister in 10 years and represents the largely rural constituency of Northeast Cambridgeshire in the Fens. However, Mark Spencer remains as farming minister.
One of Mr Barclay’s first actions was to announce a reconsideration on food waste. Defra have stated: “The secretary of state for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs will reconsider whether there should be mandatory food waste reporting in the future. The government response to this consultation has been withdrawn.”
Global Food Summit
Global Food Security Summit in London on 20 November Rishi Sunak announced the launch of a science centre to develop climate and disease-resistant crops. Scientists will help develop crops including flood-tolerant rice and disease-resistant wheat that can withstand the impacts of climate change and diseases in efforts to prevent food shortages at the new virtual science hub.
The venture will be led by CGIAR, a global research partnership that brings together international organisations working on food security amid the climate crisis. Additionally, a new international development white paper on food insecurity outlined how the UK would work in partnerships with countries to tackle extreme poverty and climate change.
Urgent action called for in Horticulture – House of Lords Report
A new report, ‘Sowing the seeds: A blooming English horticultural sector’ Sowing the seeds: A blooming English horticultural sector (parliament.uk) by the House of Lords Committee highlighted the key challenges facing the sector and provided recommendations for how to resolve these challenges.
The main priority from the report was for the government to publish its long-awaited Horticulture Strategy for England to’ set direction for the sector and give growers confidence’.
The issues facing the sector included a lack of cross-departmental working in government; relentless competition between supermarkets; a long-term skills and education gap; poor rollout and communication over the forthcoming peat ban; a lack of long-term funding for research and a poor understanding of the mental and physical health benefits of community gardening. The report also references the need for a joined-up strategy for reducing the sector’s environmental impacts and maximizing its potential environmental benefits, such as carbon sequestration in soils and improvements to biodiversity.
“The problem is this horrendous, circular argument. We want cheap food so the supermarkets want to produce food as cheaply as possible and of course that then means they’re not prepared to pay growers a good margin and of course without a good margin, that means the growers are then facing massive uncertainty, and they’re not part planting certain crops because they’re just not getting the return on investment.”
Committee chair, Lord Redesdale.
Following the publication of the report, the government has to give a response to all the recommendations coming forward after which this will then be debated in parliament.
Precision Bred Consultation
Consultation on proposals for a new framework in England for the regulation of precision bred organisms used for food and animal feed. England specific Consultation on proposals for a new framework in England for the regulation of precision bred organisms used for food and animal feed | Food Standards Agency
This consultation seeks stakeholders’ views on proposals for establishing a new framework in England under The Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act 2023 (Opens in a new window) for the regulation of food and animal feed (‘feed‘) produced from Precision Bred Organisms (PBOs) (‘PBOs for food/feed’).
The system proposed by the FSA would be risk based and therefore permit some PBOs to enter the marketplace without a formal application process. Some farming and consumer groups have raised a formal complaint on the consultation process arguing the proposals would shift the responsibility and liability for traceability and avoidance of PBO contamination away from regulatory authorities and on to businesses and other stakeholders.
Food Safety and key Shortages
A new Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland report highlights food safety and standards resourcing challenges
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) have published their annual ‘Our Food’ report, which reviews food standards across the UK for 2022. Overall, food standards remained stable in 2022, despite pressures including inflation, labour shortages and the war in Ukraine. However, the report identifies shortages in key occupations needed to keep food safe, such as vets and food inspectors.
Workforce data in the report shows a 14% decline in food hygiene posts in Local Authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland over the last decade, with over 13% of available posts vacant. In Scotland, the number of food law officers (undertaking both food hygiene and food standards work) has fallen by just over a quarter (25.5%) compared to 2016/17.
The number of UK food standards officers has fallen by 45% compared to 10 years ago. The UK veterinary profession has experienced a 27% decline in people joining the profession between 2019 and 2022, creating significant challenges in securing enough Official Veterinarians for the future.
First human case of particular Flu in UK – ‘similar’ to Swine Flu
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has detected a single confirmed human case of influenza A(H1N2)v.
Influenza A(H1N2)v is similar to flu viruses currently circulating in pigs in the UK. This is the first detection of this strain of flu in a human in the UK.
The case was detected as part of routine national flu surveillance undertaken by UKHSA and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). The individual was tested by their GP after experiencing respiratory symptoms.
The individual concerned experienced a mild illness and has fully recovered. The source of their infection has not yet been ascertained and remains under investigation. UKHSA is monitoring the situation closely and is taking steps to increase surveillance within existing programmes involving GP surgeries and hospitals in parts of North Yorkshire.
Chief Veterinary Officer, Christine Middlemiss, said: We know that some diseases of animals can be transferred to humans – which is why high standards of animal health, welfare and biosecurity are so important.
Through our animal and human surveillance systems we work together to protect everyone. In this case we are providing specialist veterinary and scientific knowledge to support the UKHSA investigation. Pig keepers must also report any suspicion of swine flu in their herds to their local vet immediately.
European Parliament revises PPWR Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation
Members of European Parliament voted this month (22 November) to adopt new rules on reducing, reusing and recycling packaging within the European Union.
The European Parliament adopted a new position on the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation. The report constitutes Parliament’s mandate for negotiations with EU governments and was approved by MEPs. Parliament adopts revamped rules to reduce, reuse and recycle packaging | News | European Parliament (europa.eu)
The intention of the position is plastic carrier bags below 15 microns in thickness will be banned wherever they are not necessary to maintain hygiene or prevent food waste. Single-use packaging formats like packaging for miniature toiletry products in hotels or shrink-wraps used for suitcases in airports are set to be heavily restricted.
The new position intends to eliminate per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances, also known as PFAs or ‘forever chemicals’, and Bisphenol A from food contact packaging, as well as set a clear definition for reusable and refillable packaging. Consumers should be given the option to bring their own containers to hotels, restaurants, cafés, and other final distributors of beverages and takeaway food.
Secondary legislation also enforces strict criteria that all packaging should be recyclable. Wood and wax food packaging are amongst the temporary exceptions to this rule, but by 2029, 90% of all materials contained in packaging – plastic, wood, ferrous metals, aluminium, glass, paper, and cardboard – should be collected separately.
Once the Council has adopted its position, Parliament will start talks with national governments to establish the law’s final form.
Glyphosate – EU’s ten-year reprieve for weedkiller
The European Commission has opted to reauthorise the herbicide glyphosate for another decade across the European Union, albeit with stricter regulations and limitations.
The Commission has stated that it will – based on comprehensive safety assessments carried out by the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), the ECHA (European Chemicals Agency), and regulatory experts in EU Member States – now proceed with the renewal of the approval of glyphosate for a period of 10 years, subject to certain new conditions and restrictions.
One of these is that pre-harvest use as a desiccant will no longer be allowed (but pre-harvest use for weed control is still permitted), and there is also the need for member states to individually consider certain mitigation measures, such as buffer strips to reduce the risk of drift.
The renewed EU approval will be published before the 15 December 2023.
Copyright: Is Aldi at it again? Thatchers v Aldi
A High Court judgement is awaited in a trademark infringement case between Thatchers and Aldi. Thatchers argues Aldi has taken “unfair advantage” of its brand reputation by copying elements of its packaging and riding on the coat tails of their marketing.
Additionally, Thatchers has argued against Aldi’s product development process of “benchmarking” against their product as market leader.
Thatchers also accuses Aldi of “passing off”, arguing it was clear that sale of the Aldi product was likely to misrepresent to consumers some commercial connection to Thatchers.
Thatchers maintain their packaging, comprising a number of non-distinctive elements, ie lemons, have in combination acquired distinctiveness.
Aldi denies passing off and taking unfair advantage.
Aldi have argued their product is well distinguishable from the Thatchers product by reasons of its different brand name and logo. Also that there are key differences in the stylisations of lemons and their leaves, and the words 'cloudy', 'lemon' and 'cider' are in a different order. Finally, in any event, Thatchers had no proprietary rights in the concept of such descriptive elements.
The trial continues, with a ruling expected at a later date.
- In past litigation between retailers, Aldi lost a court battle with Marks and Spencer after being accused of copying its light-up Christmas gin bottles.
- More well known was last year when Aldi reached a settlement with Marks & Spencer after a copyright dispute over the design of their caterpillar cakes.
- In previous litigation, another discounter, Lidl used an unfair advantage argument in a successful trademark infringement claim against Tesco earlier this year. The High Court ruled in April that Tesco was taking unfair advantage of Lidl’s reputation as a discounter with its Clubcard Prices logo, which uses a yellow circle design that is similar to Lidl’s branding.
Health & Safety – Guards on machinery
HSE guidance can be found at: Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) (hse.gov.uk) Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) (hse.gov.uk)
£700,000 fine for McCains
McCains, a frozen food company has been fined £700,000 after an employee lost two of his fingers.
The employee had been working a night shift when he suffered serious injuries to his left hand while cleaning the company’s batter system machinery. The individual had attempted to remove string dangling from a chute when his left hand was drawn in and contacted the machine’s rotary valve.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that McCain Foods had failed to provide appropriate guarding to prevent access to the dangerous parts of machinery, namely the rotary valve. It had not conducted an adequate risk assessment of the batter machine and had not provided employees with adequate health and safety training or supervision.
McCain Foods (G.B.) Limited, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Section 11(1) of Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER). The company was fined £700,000 and ordered to pay £6,508.51 in costs at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court on 22 November 2023.
The director of a dog food manufacturer was given a suspended prison sentence (October 2023) after a teenage boy lost his finger on his first day of work.
The company director was given a six-month custodial sentence, which was suspended for a period of 12 months.
It is reported Kidderminster Magistrates Court heard that the middle finger on the teen’s right hand was sliced off while assisting another worker operating a food processing machine, used to package dog food.
Despite there being an interlock guard on the machine, the young worker was instructed to stand on a step ladder and put his hands into the hopper bowl to scrape meat into the base where there were dangerous moving parts of the machine.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found Finer By Nature had failed to make suitable and sufficient assessments of the risks involved with this type of work and that the director at Finer By Nature, had neglected to manage the safety of employees using the food processing machine.
Finer By Nature, of Whitestone Business Park, Whitestone, Hereford, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 3(1) and 3(4) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and Regulation 11(1) Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The company was fined £34,000 and ordered to pay £4,564.15 in costs at Kidderminster Magistrates’ Court on 5 October 2023.
The director pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was sentenced to a six-month custodial sentence for each of the three offences to run concurrently, suspended for 12 months and 180 hours of unpaid work.
The HSE have stated: “The machine was adequately guarded, and correct use of the guard would easily have been prevented this incident. The risks should have been identified before the machine was used. Employers should make sure they properly assess and apply effective control measures to minimise the risk from dangerous parts of machinery. The sentence handed out should act as a reminder to all employers that they will be punished if they don’t protect their workers.”
The Director of a raw pet food manufacturing business supplying dog owners and breeders across south Wales has been prosecuted for selling unsafe pet food and operating in unhygienic conditions.
Happy Hounds (Wales) Limited, based at Cwmgors Industrial Estate bought waste meat and offal from a number of sources, such as slaughter houses, cutting plants and meat packers to reprocess and sell as raw dog food. However, it failed to ensure that its products were safe in respect of bacteria and feed / food borne disease, which could be transmitted to both pets and their owners.
A series of pet feed samples that were taken from the business’s products were found to carry salmonella and other bacterium in excess of permitted levels, rendering them unsafe in the opinion of the public analyst.
The company has since entered liquidation. Mr Lewis, Director of Happy Hounds (Wales) Limited, pleaded guilty to five charges of placing unsafe feed on the market and two of unhygienic premises and was sentenced to 18 weeks custody which was suspended for 12 months, to run concurrently on all counts; to pay £15,000 as a contribution towards the council’s costs; and to pay a victim surcharge of £128.
Organic Burst World SA t/a Organic Burst Upheld Social media (paid ad) 22 November 2023
Organic Burst World SA - ASA | CAP
A paid-for Facebook ad for Organic Burst, an online retailer of food supplements and food products, made various claims for the food supplement spirulina. Text stated “One of the known reasons for early grey hair is Vitamin B12 deficiency … Spirulina contains methylcobalamin, a very effective and absorbable form of Vitamin B12 … Did You Know? Taking just 1-2 tsp Spirulina a day can … reverse gray [sic] hair …”.
Issue: The complainant challenged whether the implied claim that spirulina could treat vitamin B12 deficiency and therefore reverse the growth of grey hair was a claim that a food could treat clinical vitamin deficiency and treat or cure human disease, which was a breach of the Code.
Ruling: The Code required that ads for foods, including food supplements, must not claim to treat clinical vitamin deficiencies or state or imply that a food or food supplement could prevent, treat or cure human disease.
The ASA considered readers would interpret the ad, which stated that Vitamin B12 deficiency was a cause of the early growth of grey hair and that Spirulina contained “a very effective and absorbable form of Vitamin B12”, and which contained the claim “Taking just 1-2 tsp Spirulina a day can … reverse gray [sic] hair …” to mean that consuming the stated quantity of spirulina would correct vitamin B12 deficiency and, as a result, reverse the growth of grey hair.
They considered that the ad claimed that the food supplement could treat a clinical vitamin deficiency and one of its symptoms and concluded that the ad therefore breached the Code.
Toyota (GB) plc Upheld Poster, Social media (paid ad) 22 November 2023
Toyota (GB) plc - ASA | CAP
A paid for Facebook post and a poster ad for Toyota:
a. The Facebook post stated, “From Active Traction Control to Hill Start Assist, Toyota Hilux, Born to Roam”. An accompanying video showed a wide open plain with mountains either side. A swarm was depicted from a distance moving across the plain, causing dust to rise. A number of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) were then shown moving across the landscape in unison before joining a tarmacked road. A voiceover said, “One of nature’s true spectacles.” The vehicles were then shown on the road, side by side, and driving through a built-up city area with a single vehicle then shown reversing up a driveway. The voiceover continued, “Toyota Hilux. Born to Roam.” A final shot showed the car parked in a rocky, natural environment. Text stated “WWW.TOYOTA.CO.UK BORN TO ROAM Learn more”.
b. The poster, seen at a bus stop, stated, “BORN TO ROAM”. An image showed two SUVs driving on a rocky incline in a savannah style landscape. Around 50 identical SUVs appeared in a large pack on a hilly background.
Issue: Adfree Cities, who believed the ads condoned behaviour that was harmful to the environment, challenged whether they were irresponsible.
Upheld by ASA:
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
The ASA acknowledged Toyota’s comments that the sheer volume of cars in the ads would lead viewers to interpret the scenes as fantastical and not as a portrayal of real-world driving.
However, the ASA held the ads presented and condoned the use of vehicles in a manner that disregarded their impact on nature and the environment. As a result, they had not been prepared with a sense of responsibility to society.
Businesses and marketers should be aware of the scrutiny that activist groups may give to certain goods and services that may be considered within sensitive areas. For food this may well concern claims made for HFSS foods, foods containing palm oil, meat and dairy industry etc.
Additionally when using fantastical scenes the real life connotations of this do none the less need to be considered. This underlines how strict the ASA can be in their adjudications