Mock trial highlights allergen risks facing food businesses

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

The event featured a mock trial that was conducted by three active barristers
The event featured a mock trial that was conducted by three active barristers

Related tags Food safety

Consultancy firm Food Allergy Aware hosted a mock trial event on 26 September 2023 to help guide food manufacturers and foodservice businesses.

The event, held at the Heart of England Conference and Events Centre in Coventry, featured a host of speakers from across the food industry, before showcasing a mock trial event performed by three barristers with an extensive background in food law.

The attendees were a mix of hospitality venues and food processors, while a range of firms within the field of manufacturing and food safety attended as exhibitors. This included free-from cake maker Just Love Food Company, meat alternative manufacturer Moving Mountains and supply chain services consultant SCI.

In the morning, Belinda Stuart-Moonlight of Moonlight Environmental reviewed the results from the inquest into the death of Celia Marsh, who died after suffering anaphylaxis in December 2017. Marsh, who was severely allergic to milk, had a reaction after eating a wrap that she was unaware contained milk protein.

Stuart-Moonlight went into the details of the case, including the complex supply chain dynamics that played a role in the presence of milk protein not being clearly flagged.

This was followed by a presentation by event organiser Caroline Benjamin and Jacqui McPeake, who went through the results of their Near Miss Report, conducted through the organisation they co-founded HASUK. The campaign hopes to alter how allergen ‘near misses’ are reported, as they can provide a vital warning sign that the current systems a business has in place are not sufficient.

Speaking to Food Manufacture, Benjamin said: "The Mock Trial event was created to raise awareness for food business operations to get an insight on where it could go drastically wrong within their business, even with a policy in place. Near miss reporting can prevent an incident or a potential fatality from occurring if a no blame culture of internal and external reporting is encouraged​."

Mock trial offers legal insight

The afternoon session was dedicated to the mock trial event, which featured barristers David Travers, Stuart Jessop and Tom Walker, all of whom possess vast experience in the profession and detailed knowledge of health and safety and food law.

The exercise was designed to show attendees how the legal process plays out and the central arguments that might be made in an allergen case. Areas of focus included the level of harm caused by an allergic reaction incident and the level of culpability a business had over the incident.

After both sides had laid out their cases, acting judge Travers explained how the offending party might be sentenced and what the key pieces of evidence were that led to such a decision.

"The court scenario shows what potentially could be the outcomes if attention to detail is not in place when managing the FHS customer​," said Benjamin.

'Powerful learnings from the event'

Meanwhile, Just Love Food Company chief executive Mike Woods said that the firm was delighted to support an "amazing and educational event​". The free-from baked goods manufacturer brought a range of products to the event, including a vegan-friendly chocolate cake and a gluten-free birthday cake.

"We heard from some fabulous speakers in the morning who shared their experiences from real-case scenarios and gave information on how regulation is, or should be, considered going forward​," Woods explained.

"The mock trial in the afternoon was also incredibly insightful as it showed everyone how a court would consider a business’s failings if a tragic event should occur. There were some very powerful leanings that could be taken away​."

In other news, Hoxton Farms has opened a cultivated fat research facility in London​​​.

Related topics Food Safety Allergens

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