The Sentencing Council reported 130 fines in 2016 – the year the Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences guideline for England and Wales came into force. This was up from 60 in 2013.
Most organisations received a fine (94% in 2017), with the average figure up from £2,200 to £7,100 when comparing 10 months pre-guideline with 10 months post-guideline.
Commenting on the report, food and drink sector specialist Darren Seward at NFU Mutual said an increase in penalties had a positive impact on the industry as a whole.
“The vast majority of businesses work incredibly hard to meet their hygiene and safety obligation and the irresponsible businesses which demean that are being held more accountable for poor conduct,” said Seward.
“Managers have a duty to put hygiene and safety at the heart of the company’s values to prevent getting into a serious situation in the first place, and damage as a result of hygiene issues reaches much further than a fine.”
Seward warned of the potential damage a food fine could make to the reputation of a business and the reputation of individual directors.
‘Risk of harm’
“Most importantly, innocent lives could be put at serious risk of harm. Getting it right takes work, but there is no excuse in the eyes of the law, or indeed the public,” he concluded.
Further research by NFU Mutual also found that, in 2017, 92% of offenders received a fine for hygiene and safety offences, 3% received a suspended sentence, 2% were handed a community order and less than 1% were sentenced to immediate custody.
The average fine amount for an individual increased from about £930 to £1,300 post-guideline.
Meanwhile, an abattoir was recently fined more than £18,000 for breaching food safety regulations.