Food safety legislation

Under the Food Safety Act 1990 all food manufacturers, caterers and retailers are required to ensure that the food they supply is safe (for the majority of people and when consumed in normal quantities) and is of the nature, substance and quality demanded. The General Product Safety Regulations 1994 (GPSR) will apply to food where there is no specific provision under the Food Safety Act (FSA) or any regulations made thereunder. As a result, information may need to be provided to consumers on any risks that a product might present regarding a number of factors, such as the effects of such a risk on a vulnerable group, for example allergic individuals.

A failure to comply with these requirements because of the unnotified, inadvertent presence of an allergen in a product through manufacture or cross-contamination, could give rise to a criminal offence being committed, even though no intention existed. There is, however, a due diligence defence available to manufacturers in the event of proceedings under both the FSA and the GPSR which would require the manufacturer to prove that he had taken all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to prevent inclusion of an allergenic material. Manufacturers can reduce the risk of prosecution and contribute substantially to the establishment of a due diligence defence by implementing Good Manufacturing Practice and documenting all procedures taken as evidence of GMP processes, training and results, as detailed earlier.

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