Those are the main conclusions of its survey of firms belonging to: the Fresh Produce Consortium, the Food and Drink Forum, the British Frozen Food Federation, the Artisan Food Trail and Tastes of Anglia.
Just over half (52%) of the firms surveyed conceded the costs of implementing the required changes were higher than expected. More than half said they would need over six months to ensure compliance.
Roythornes head of the food and drink team Peter Bennett blamed early confusion about what the rules required. “There have been some teething problems with the introduction of the new FIR. A lot of businesses spent more than they budgeted to over a very long period of time in some instances to make the compulsory adjustments – for a fifth of businesses it took over a year.”
‘Late coming and quite confusing’
Simply understanding the rules was a big obstacle. “Given that information on the regulations was late coming and quite confusing in some areas – 32% of those surveyed said that interpreting the regulation was the biggest challenge,” said Bennett.
A quarter of businesses surveyed in January had yet to train their employees on FIR complance. More than a quarter (27%) of respondents admitted they were unprepared for the regulations when the first phase was implemented last December.
“There have been some teething problems with the introduction of the new FIR. A lot of businesses spent more than they budgeted to over a very long period of time in some instances to make the compulsory adjustments – for a fifth of businesses it took over a year.”
Nearly two-thirds of food and drink manufacturers relied on government websites as the main source of guidance about the new rules.
Onus was on food businesses
But now information on FIR compliance was widely available, the onus was on food businesses to draw on the necessary expertise to implement the required changes quickly. If in-house expertise was unable there was a wide range of consultancies and legal service providers to support food businesses through the change, said Bennett.
While enforcement officers were currently taking a light touch to implement the rules, firms should not delay compliance measures. “As it stands, those enforcing the legislation are adopting soft touch approach – it isn’t likely that anything other than an improvement notice will be issued – it’s a little too soon for serious action.
“That said, non-compliance with an improvement notice is an offence in itself and food businesses will quickly find themselves in hot water should they not act quickly to implement necessary changes.”
The next deadline facing manufacturers is December 13 2016. By that date, nutrition declaration will become mandatory.