Despite little enforcement activity since FIR came into play on December 13 2014, Hilary Ross, executive partner and head of retail, food and hospitality at law firm DWF, claimed things could soon change. “The regulators are taking a light-touch approach at the moment,” she said at the Business Leaders’ Forum, held at the offices of host sponsor DWF in London on January 20.
“I think it’s still too early for any serious action,” Ross said at the forum, which was also sponsored by Lloyds Bank and food testing company ALcontrol Laboratories.
“But, I foresee things picking up from April and that’s when we can expect to see more improvement notices being issued. But that’s just to start with,” she said. “Failure to comply with an improvement notice is an offence in itself, so the company will be prosecuted and the matter will be viewed as extremely serious.”
'Failure to comply'
Enforcement officers had so far been advised to help non-compliant firms meet the new legislation, Ross noted. However, it was unclear for how much longer such leniency would prevail.
In the future, Tradining Standards (TS) would take action to ensure businesses complied, said David Pickering, lead officer for food at the Trading Standards Institute and team leader with Buckinghamshire County Council TS.
“This will be via the tools given to us in the FIR. Action will need to be taken in line with the authority’s enforcement policy and other national guidelines,” he said.
However, fears of an overreliance by TS officers on improvement notices were unfounded, he reassured. “But it will be interesting to see how this develops.”