Food and Agri Update Friday 28 October

New PM and Cabinet

Rishi Sunak is the new Prime Minister and there is a new cabinet in place - what does this mean for the food and agri sector?

The bonfire of red tape and taxes look to be slightly subdued after all - reports have referenced the retained EU law (revocation and reform) bill, which received its second reading in the House of Commons this week,  would state all embedded EU laws would be switched off by 31 December 2023, this would place a huge burden on the civil service.  Speculation was rife the sunset clause to will be extended to 2026

Environment

Rishi Sunak will not be attending the Cop 22.  This has raised queries on the commitment to net carbon targets.

Thérèse Coffey was appointed head of Defra

Environmental Land Management (ELM)  The ELMS is the most significant change to UK farming and land management in over five decades, replacing the EU's common agricultural policy (CAP).

The new system is made up of three payment schemes -1. the sustainable farming incentive (SFI), 2. local nature recovery and 3. landscape recovery.

Under these, farmers will receive payment for taking actions which generate environmental benefits or ‘goods’. There has been limited take up of these schemes and therefore it is likely to be a priority for Theresa Coffey.

Speculation is also rife as to what the new head of Defra's position is likely to be.  It is reported T. Coffey will not be likely to take a hard line on the carbon emissions from meat, if her previous tweets are anything to go by. In 2018, tweeting about the benefits of a meat tax, she said: “What next, no spag bol?”  When environment minister in 2018 she celebrated using the herbicide RoundUp in her garden, which contains the controversial ingredient glyphosate, tweeting it was ‘amazing’. 

Climate

The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy said the UK’s critical national infrastructure (CNI) had been left exposed due to the increasing risks of extreme weather events due to climate change.

It said there should be a programme of regional exercises to ensure locally-based responders – such as the emergency services, the NHS and local authorities – are properly prepared for extreme weather events.

The latest National Drought Group meeting this month, The meeting –forecast that average rainfall levels over winter will still not be sufficient to avoid impending drought or drought conditions next year. 

Many water companies have suggested impending drought or drought conditions will remain beyond spring in some areas – notably in parts of the South West, South East, East and Yorkshire and East Midlands - if rainfall is below average. 

The lack of moisture in soils led to significant agricultural impacts and reduced water availability for farmers this year. Winter refill of farm storage reservoirs may be limited if there is below average rainfall this winter.

The EA is also working closely with farmers and growers to support the industry. The package of measures to assist farmers announced this summer, which continues through this winter, includes water trading between farmers in catchments to help improve access to water, as well as the temporary ability to abstract additional water where it doesn’t impact existing abstractions or harm the environment.

ASA

Two cases on CBD products published this week both looked at the making of marketing claims and the clarity needed.

The CAP Code required that marketing communications must make clear that advertorials were marketing communications; for example, by heading them “advertisement feature”. The CAP Code also required that marketing communications must not falsely claim or imply that the marketer was acting as a consumer or for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession. It also required that marketing communications made clear their commercial intent.

The cases also considered the need to ensure medicinal and health claims are authorised and permitted. 

The CAP Code prohibited claims that stated or implied that a food could prevent, treat or cure human disease. all adverse health conditions, or symptoms of them, we concluded the claims implied the product, a food, prevented, treated or cured human disease, which was prohibited under the Code.

Only health claims authorised on the Great Britain nutrition and health claims Register (the GB NHC Register) could be made in ads promoting foods or food supplements. Marketers must also ensure that the advertised food or food supplement met the conditions of use associated with the authorised health claim. Health claims were defined as those that stated, suggested or implied a relationship between a food or ingredient, and health.

The CAP Code defined claims which referenced the general benefits of a nutrient or food for overall good health or health-related wellbeing as general health claims. Such claims were acceptable in ads only if accompanied by a specific authorised health claim.

CBD Health Foods Ltd t/a Vibes CBD

Upheld  Internet (website content)  26 October 2022

Four advertorials for a CBD oil seen on online news outlets, were banned for not being obviously identifiable as ads, making medicinal claims for unlicensed products and stating the product could prevent, treat or cure human disease.

The ASA understood that Consumer Logic Research had signed up to Vibes CBD’s affiliate scheme, and had then paid for the advertorial to be placed in the various online news outlets owned by National World. The advertorials included affiliate links to the Vibes CBD website, from which Consumer Logic Research would receive commission for any sales generated by the retailer through their appearance in the advertorials. Therefore, there was a commercial relationship between Vibes CBD and Consumer Logic Research, and one between Consumer Logic Research and National World. The ASA therefore considered that the commercial nature of the affiliate content should have been made clear prior to consumer engagement.

Enigmaa Ltd t/a Blessed CBD

Upheld  Internet (website content)  26 October 2022topical cream – medicine

Four advertorials for a CBD oil seen on online news outlets, were banned for not being obviously identifiable as ads, making medicinal claims for unlicensed products and stating the product could prevent, treat or cure human disease.

The ASA understood that Consumer Logic Research had signed up to Blessed CBD’s affiliate scheme, and had then paid for the advertorial to be placed in the various online news outlets owned by National World. The advertorials included affiliate links to the Blessed CBD website, from which Consumer Logic Research would receive commission for any sales generated by the retailer through their appearance in the advertorials. Therefore, there was a commercial relationship between Blessed CBD and Consumer Logic Research, and one between Consumer Logic Research and National World. The ASA therefore considered that the commercial nature of the affiliate content should have been made clear prior to consumer engagement.

Ads included headings: “CBD Oil UK: The 6 Best CBD Oils Reviewed (2021)” in “CBD Oil UK: 6 Best CBD Oil Brands in the UK Reviewed”

The ASA considered those headings implied that the content related to independent reviews and ratings of a range of CBD oils.

All four ads recommended Blessed CBD as either the best or second-best CBD product and included affiliate links only to the websites of those top two rated brands. While the advertorials referenced other CBD oil brands, they did not include any links to their websites.

The ASA considered those brands were included to reinforce the impression that the ads were independent reviews and to underscore the top ratings of the two brands with whom Consumer Logic Research had a commercial relationship. It was therefore considered that the advertorials falsely implied that Consumer Logic Research had independently reviewed the CBD oils when that was not the case.

Some ads included text below the heading that stated, “Promoted by Consumer Logic Research” and included a few further references to Consumer Logic Research in the copy.

However, the ASA considered that “Promoted by Consumer Logic Research” was insufficient to identify the content as advertising, or that it was specifically advertising for Blessed CBD (and the other best-rated brand) and that it included affiliate links, or to counteract the overall impression that the content was an independent review of products. It was therefore concluded that it was not clear that the advertorials were marketing communications.

The ASA concluded that the ads breached the Code because they: did not make clear they were advertorials; did not make clear their commercial intent; and implied the marketer was acting for purposes outside its trade or business.

Court of Justice News Item (174/22), 27 October 2022

GMOs – Court of Justice: Looked at random mutagenesis , in vivo  “within the living.”  and in vitro ‘within the glass’  and the application of EU law concerning deliberate release into the environment of GMOs

In plants, random mutagenesis relies on the application of physical and chemical mutagens to increase the frequency of mutations thus accelerating the selection of varieties with important agronomic traits. 

The aim of Directive 2001/18, was not to regulate the method of genetic modification but to establish an authorisation procedure for the release into the environment of organisms obtained by means of those methods.

The EFSA GMO Panel had already concluded that the distinction between plants obtained by in vitro or in vivo approaches is not justified

First instance court held no legal justification for treating differently the organisms obtained by means of those two techniques, as nothing in the text of Directive 2001/18 indicates that the EU legislature wanted to differentiate mutagenesis techniques.

This is a differing approach to the UK that has specifically gone further to permit 'gene editing' .

Bird Flu

a new avian flu support package announced today in the wake of the UK’s “worst ever” outbreak of the disease

Defra is to allow turkey, goose and duck producers to slaughter their flocks early so they can be frozen, before being defrosted and sold as chilled in the run-up to Christmas.  In consultation with the Food Standards Agency, Defra said the temporary easement to marketing rules in England would “give farmers certainty over business planning”.  Owners of flocks threatened by bird flu will therefore have the option of the early slaughtering and freezing of birds, which will then be permitted to be defrosted and sold to consumers between 28 November and 31 December.

Under the new plans, the Government will also alter the existing bird flu compensation scheme allowing compensation to be paid to farmers from the outset of planned culling rather than at the end. 

Vet checks

After Brexit, UK meat industry needs to comply with a requirement for farms to have regular animal health visits by a vet in order to become export compliant.

EU Animal Health Regulations (AHR) has been complied with to date by a simple farmer declaration that vet visits have been done.

However, in May this year, Defra took the unilateral decision to add a UK-only requirement for a veterinary attestation.

There will be difficulty to implement this new rule due to current shortages of vets.  It has been warned the move will have a ‘devastating effect’ on farmers, auction markets and meat processors, and would force up livestock prices.  It is anticipated there may be a return to the previous situation as the prioritising the supply chain and costs for farmers.

Online Sales - New Safety Charter

As updated after the FSA board meeting in September 16 September a new food safety charter for online food has been announced.

Since the pandemic, almost 40% of us order takeaway food through an app or online. Some 170,000 food businesses are on three of the biggest online platforms, Just Eat, Uber Eats and Deliveroo. They have significant reach across the takeaway, restaurant and food-to-go sectors.

These three online platforms, alongside the FSA, have developed a new Food Safety Charter. Ensuring registration and compliance with a minimum standard under the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS).

Food Safety

The preliminary criminal investigation concerning dozens of E. coli infections in children in France has been reported.  A group of 48 families, including 55 victims, have filed a €250m civil suit for gross negligence and are pressing to change the law for better controls in the food industry.

There is stated to be a traceability connection with Buitoni frozen pizzas.  Pizzas sold since June 2021 were withdrawn and recalled in mid-March after reported presence of E. coli O26 in dough used to make them.

Parent company Nestlé France announced last month it had tested more than 2,000 samples from its factory and ingredients, and that an E coli contamination of the flour seemed “the most probable” explanation, adding that it found no trace of the bacteria on production lines.

This underlines the importance of food safety checks and upkeep on testing.

Supply fraud check

Safety: Food producers are recommended to take quality checks of CO2 after 3000% inflation over the last year. Food grade and beverage grade CO2 requires an extremely high purity level. If fraud occurs and food or industry grade CO2 is mis-sold there will be an increased risk of carcinogens

Quality Voluntary Claims:  Look at the quality claims in supply chain case begun where A businessman is accused of inventing a fake award to claim his 'Scottish-grown' tea was the 'best in the world' has denied conning luxury hotels out of nearly £600,000.  Thomas Robinson, often known as Tam O'Braan or Thomas O'Brien, cultivated the tea on his own plantation in Perthshire, when he knew the finished product was 'not authentically Scottish'.  The tea type,  Camellia Sinensis, is mainly cultivated in tropical and subtropical climates, in areas with at least 127 cm of rainfall per year.

Mr Robinson also invented academic qualifications and industry body awards he had never been given and told potential customers he was already selling it to the Royal household, Perth Sheriff Court heard.

However, prosecutors say he then only supplied them with tea products bought from wholesalers.

This underlines the importance of checking authenticity and substantiation especially when a premium is being paid.

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