Whether you are an individual or a business, facing food safety and food hygiene investigations or prosecutions can be intimidating. Reeds Solicitors have a team of specialist food safety lawyers who are available to provide expert advice and representation. No matter what your situation, we can ensure that you that we are best equipped to handle it. A food safety lawyer will be able to provide you advice, guide you through the process and help get the best possible outcome.

A breach in food safety and food hygiene laws could see financial penalties, and in more serious cases may lead to custodial sentences. It’s also possible that these proceedings can result in negative publicity and reputational damage for you or your business. These financial penalties and/or reputational damage can result in the business closing, as can persistent failure to comply with notices. As such it’s important to protect your interests with advice from specialist food law solicitors with a thorough understanding of regulatory law.

Reeds Solicitors is an award winning and leading top-tier criminal defence firm. For legal advice and representation, please contact us through our contact page here. Alternatively, you can phone 0333 240 7373, or email us at info@reeds.co.uk.


How A food safety lawyer from Reeds Solicitors Can Help

We provide advice and representation on the following food safety and hygiene issues:

  • Food safety and food hygiene investigations and prosecutions
  • Interviews under caution
  • Hygiene improvement notices
  • Hygiene prohibition notices
  • Hygiene emergency prohibition notices/orders
  • Detention notices
  • Food condemnation orders
  • Food labelling and packaging
  • Advice regarding compliance and enforcement issues relating to coronavirus (Covid-19) regulations.

If you need any advice or support on food safety or food hygiene issues, please contact our food safety solicitors as soon as possible. The sooner we can advise you, the better we are able to protect your business and your interests. If your issue relates to a matter not listed above, we may still be able to help. Please contact us through our contact page here. Alternatively, you can phone 0333 240 7373, or email us at info@reeds.co.uk.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is a food hygiene rating?

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme gives food businesses a rating from 5 to 0. The rating reflects the standards of food hygiene as found on the date of inspection by the local authority. This is displayed at their premises and online, and it aims at providing customers information in order to make an informed choice of where to buy food.

The rating is not a guide to food quality, but a reflection of safety and hygiene standards at the business as found at the inspection. A food hygiene rating can be found on the Food Standards Agency website.

What do the Food Hygiene Ratings mean?

During an inspection, an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) will audit a food business’ premises to see how compliant they are with food safety law. The EHO will award a food business operator with a rating between 0 and 5 based on the condition of the premises, how food is prepared, stored, cooked, cooled and reheated, and how the business manage and record measures to ensure food safety.

  • 0 – Urgent improvement necessary
  • 1 – Major improvement necessary
  • 2 – Improvement necessary
  • 3 – Generally satisfactory
  • 4 – Good
  • 5 – Very good.

Who needs a Food Hygiene Rating?

Any business premises where food is handled or prepared in the UK requires inspection, and will be given a rating. This can include restaurants, takeaways and industrial kitchens, though it can even include the homes of childminders, carers, schools and hospitals.

Can I appeal a food hygiene rating?

It is possible that a poor rating may negatively affect your business. You can appeal against your food hygiene rating if you feel that it is wrong or unfair. The appeal must be made in writing to your local authority within 21 days of receiving the rating notification letter.

You can get more advice regarding appealing an unfair food hygiene rating from an experienced food hygiene solicitor. Contact us through our contact page here to consider the best course of action for your circumstances.

Can I refuse an environmental health officer from entering my food premises?

You must allow an Environmental Health Officer to enter your food business premises to conduct an inspection, provided it is carried out at a ‘reasonable’ time. This would be seen as your usual operating business hours. This is covered by the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013.

An inspection is usually unannounced to get a fair assessment of how the business is operating under food hygiene and safety regulations. However, an Environmental Health Officer must give those that operate from a private dwelling 24 hours’ notice of a visit.

Preventing an Environmental Health Officer to enter your premises, obstructing them from conducting their duties, or failing to assist or provide necessary information for their assessment without reasonable excuse is a criminal offence.

Can an environmental health officer take food or samples from my food premises?

Yes, an Environmental Health Officer may seize food without your permission. Food which is considered unfit can be taken (called a ‘seizure’), and if there is too much food to seize the EHO can record a detailed note of your products until they can be seized.

Additionally, Environmental Health Officers can secure food samples, or environmental swabs (i.e. swabs of an area used for food preparation). The EHO may purchase the sample as a regular customer, unannounced to the premises. Alternatively, an officer can identify themselves before taking samples.

Why is a food business inspected?

A business may be inspected as part of routine food inspections, or following a complaint.

The frequency of your routine inspections will depend upon the type of business and its previous record. Some premises may be inspected every six months, whilst others may be less frequent.

A food premises may be inspected following a complaint of the food, the standards of the premises, or due to a reported case of food poisoning.

What enforcement action can an authorised Environmental Health Officer take?

Authorised officers are able to take a range of actions to protect the public from unsafe or unhygienic premises. For example, the EHO could take any of the following action:

  1. Seize foods considered unfit for human consumption.
  2. Issue a letter asking you to correct issues following an inspection.
  3. Serve a formal legal notice setting out necessary actions or restricting your operation in a specific way.
  4. Recommend a legal prosecution in serious cases.

What is the time limit for a food safety or food hygiene prosecution?

The prosecution of a food safety or hygiene offence under the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 must begin within one year from its discovery by the prosecutor or three years from the commission of the offence – whichever is the earlier date.

For more advice, please contact our food hygiene and safety lawyers through our contact page here. Alternatively, you can phone 0333 240 7373, or email us at info@reeds.co.uk.

Who can be prosecuted for poor food safety?

If a business is found to be in breach of food safety legislation, then the owner or proprietor of the business is legally responsible. If the matter proceeds, it is the owner or proprietor who will be prosecuted.

Do Food Safety Laws Only Cover Hygiene, or can I be prosecuted due to allergen cross-contamination?

When it comes to food storage and preparation, it’s not only about maintaining hygiene standards. You must ensure food safety by preventing contamination by allergens. You must also provide essential allergen advice to customers, such as if a product contains nuts. Exposing individuals to even a small amount of allergen could put them at risk of serious harm. You must take steps to prevent any cross-contamination. Food products must be labelled clearly. Menus must also set out allergen information. You can display allergen information through notices on premises and marketing materials. You can also ask customers about their allergy status and provide appropriate advice when they order food. By doing this, you will protect the health and well-being of your customers, while also complying with food safety regulations.

Who enforces food safety laws in the UK?

Local Authorities are responsible for enforcing food hygiene laws, and are tasked with inspections of premises. They are supported by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), who are responsible for food safety and food hygiene in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Is it a legal requirement to have food safety certificates?

Food businesses do not require staff to have a food safety certificate. However, there is a legal requirement for food hygiene training for any person who handles food on a premises.

What are the HACCP principles?

The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles is a management system by which food safety can be addressed. Food safety management procedures should be based upon the HACCP principles to ensure that any hazards are identified. The seven HACCP principles are:

  1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis – Identify hazards and conduct a risk analysis.
  2. Identify the ‘Critical Control Points’ – The processes to find and take necessary preventative measures.
  3. Establish Critical Limits for each of the critical control points.
  4. Monitor Critical Control Points
  5. Establish Corrective Action – when any problem occurs, providing and recording corrective action.
  6. Verification – verify all activities are working property to prevent hazards.
  7. Documentation – Record everything of the HACCP food safety management system to ensure records of all procedures.

What legal defence can I use against food safety concerns?

Reeds Solicitors will attempt to demonstrate that your business has performed due diligence in any way reasonably possible to prevent any breaches of food safety and hygiene regulation. Having a HACCP system in place, with documentation and records, is the best evidence that you are fully committed in doing this.

If you have any concerns regarding an investigation or potential prosecution, we recommend contacting our food safety solicitors as soon as possible. The sooner we can advise you, the better we are able to protect your business and your interests. Please contact us through our contact page here. Alternatively, you can phone 0333 240 7373, or email us at info@reeds.co.uk.


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