Food and drink firms should 'beware bribery threat'

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Ross (left): a due diligence defence could be used if bribery is identified
Ross (left): a due diligence defence could be used if bribery is identified
Manufacturers must take the threat of bribery more seriously by putting in place measures to safeguard against it, a legal expert has advised. The warning comes as new figures suggest a third of food firms have no protection in place against such illegal practices.

Many manufacturers have admitted to awarding big contracts to suppliers without having anti-bribery and corruption policies in place, according to a survey carried out by supply chain specialist Achilles.

Having an anti-bribery clause in a contract was one of the most basic elements expected of a commercial organisation, Hilary Ross, executive partner and head of retail, food and hospitality at law firm DWF, said.

Bribery

“If bribery does occur, it is a defence for a commercial organisation to be able to demonstrate that it had in place adequate procedures designed to prevent it,” ​Ross said.

Almost a third (32%) of large food manufacturers asked said they did not have these measures in place. The practice was worse among smaller manufacturers, almost two-thirds (61%) of which didn’t have anti-bribery or corruption policies in place, according to Achilles.

In the wake of high profile scandals in the supply chain, food and drink manufacturers needed to be able to prove to consumers greater transparency about their business dealings, Ross said.

Ethical trading

“Consumers are extremely sophisticated and their expectations of food go beyond quality, safety and price. They are much more aware of sustainable and ethical trading,”​ she said.

Manufacturers should review their key, high-value contracts to ensure they were “fit for purpose”​ in the 21st Century, Ross added.

However, firms weren’t only failing to safeguard against bribery, according to Achilles. More than a quarter (29%) surveyed didn’t ask to see information about their suppliers’ finances, which rose to 74% for smaller firms, it said.

Following the 2013 horsemeat scandal, more firms had reviewed their contracts to ensure they were protected against fraud, said Ross.

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