On 16th March 2021, the Food Standards Agency published a revised Food Law Code of Practice (England) along with an updated Food Law Practice Guidance (England).
This statutory Code of Practice, which has regard to the effect of the UK leaving the EU, sets out how food law should be enforced by competent authorities (e.g. local authorities) who must have regard to the Code when enforcing food law.
The importance of the Code is highlighted by the following paragraph which appears on page 2; “Competent Authorities that do not have due regard to relevant provisions of the Code could find their decisions or actions successfully challenged, and evidence gathered during a criminal investigation being ruled inadmissible by a court.”
Food business operators and their advisers must be familiar with the Code and its contents particularly when responding to investigations and prosecutions, or when challenging regulatory actions by way of an appeal. It may be possible to identify a failure by the authority or its officers to have due regard to the Code which may affect the legality and/or appropriateness of the authority’s conduct.
Chapter 6 of the Code states that enforcement action must be in accordance with Chapter 6 of the Practice Guidance and must be reasonable, proportionate, risk-based and consistent with good practice.
Chapter 6 of the Practice Guidance is well worth a read as refers to various enforcement notices and explains the circumstances in which they should be used.
The Code refers to the EU Official Controls Regulation (2017/625) which refers to conducting investigations and actions that are available where non-compliance has been established.