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Four tips on avoiding new tougher food safety fines

Alice Foster

By Alice Foster+

29-Jan-2016
Last updated on 01-Feb-2016 at 14:54 GMT2016-02-01T14:54:30Z

DWF food group head Dominic Watkins gives advice on new sentencing guidelines
DWF food group head Dominic Watkins gives advice on new sentencing guidelines

Food and drink manufacturers have been given four top tips on how to avoid tougher fines for safety offences, as new sentencing guidelines take effect on Monday (February 1).

Law firm DWF advised companies to look at key risks, examine the guidelines, implement safety projects and focus on food safety as well as health and safety.

DWF food group head Dominic Watkins warned that the new guidelines would shake up the system with fines set to start at more than 10 times higher than before. 

“Fines for offences relating to health and safety and food safety are set to rocket,” Watkins told FoodManufacture.co.uk. 

Higher fines to ‘become commonplace’ 

Multi-million pound fines will become commonplace, and not just in the most serious cases. 

“Fines are likely to reach seven figures for offences that may only have been punished in the tens of thousands before.” 

For example, Watkins said that a fatal health and safety offence causing death would previously have had a starting point of a £100,000 fine. 

But from Monday, this fine would start from £1.3M if the defendant had medium culpability, rising as high as £2.4M if the defendant was highly culpable. 

“The whole regime has changed. Here, we have set out our top four tips to help you avoid these sky-high fines altogether,” he said. 

For more information on the new guidelines click here.

Four top tips to guard against food safety fines
  1. Health check your key risk areas: “Our experience is that most businesses have excellent systems in place, but can be let down when it comes to implementing them.”
  2. Don’t forget that the guidelines apply to food safety too: “It’s easy to focus on the impact that these guidelines will have on health and safety, as the area that has received the most media attention. However, specific guidelines for food safety offences that apply to a wide range of circumstances will also see fine levels soar.” 
  3. Act now on those safety or food safety projects in the pipeline: “There is no time like the present to push forward on the corrections and improvements that have been sitting in the long grass.” 
  4. Familiarise yourself with the new guidelines: “By understanding them, you will be better placed to protect your business.”

Source: Dominic Watkins, head of food group, DWF