Food health and safety fines on the up

The number of businesses sentenced for food safety and hygiene offences has more than doubled. It was around 60 in 2013 and nearer 130 in 2016.

The average fine has increased too, by nearly £5,000. The research, carried out by NFU Mutual, found fines for food safety and hygiene offences and prosecution of directors and senior managers have increased following the introduction of new sentencing guideline in England and Wales.

Analysis showed that there are currently over 10,000 organisations where food is supplied, sold or consumed across England, Wales and Northern Ireland with a food hygiene rating by the Food Standards Agency of 1 ‘major improvement necessary’ or 0 ‘urgent improvement is required’ (ratings range from 0- 5, with 5 ‘very good’ being the highest score)2.

This amounts to just over 2% of total food hygiene rated organisations3. In Scotland a different scheme of ‘pass’ or ‘improvement required’ is used, with just over 8% of organisations requiring improvement. Food manufacturers or wholesalers are not included in either scheme.

Following the findings, which emerged during an impact assessment published by the Sentencing Council in April of this year, NFU Mutual is warning business owners of the dangers of poor food hygiene and safety practices.

The Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences guideline for England and Wales came into force in 2016. It helps to ensure that imposed fines are proportionate to the circumstances and seriousness of the offence, including accountability and harm.

The impact assessment found that the number of organisations sentenced for food safety and hygiene offences has more than doubled from around 60 in 2013 to 130 in 2016, but has since remained stable.

Most organisations received a fine (94% in 2017) and analysis found the mean figure increased from £2,200 to £7,100, when comparing 10 months pre-guideline with 10 months post-guideline.

Darren Seward, Hospitality and Food and Drink Sector Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Damage as a result of hygiene issues reaches much further than a fine. Company reputation can be destroyed overnight, the directors responsible can be prosecuted, (putting a fatal ending to their career in the industry), and innocent lives could be put at serious risk of harm.”