Fines for food safety and hygiene  offences and prosecution of directors and senior managers have increased following the introduction of new sentencing guidelines in England and Wales.

NFU Mutual, which specialises in insuring businesses in the food and drink sector, is warning business owners across the UK of the dangers of poor food hygiene and safety practices, following the findings of an impact assessment published by the Sentencing Council earlier this year. It found that the number organisations sentenced for food safety and hygiene offences has more than doubled from around 60 in 2013 to 130 in 2016, but has since remained stable. Most organisations received a fine (94% in 2017) and analysis found the mean figure has increased from £2,200 to £7,100. Darren Seward, food and drink sector specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “To see an increase in penalties is positive for the food and drink industry as a whole. The vast majority of businesses work incredibly hard to meet their hygiene and safety obligations, and the irresponsible businesses which demean that are being held more accountable for poor conduct.

“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. Company reputation can be destroyed overnight, the directors responsible can be prosecuted, putting a fatal ending to their career in the industry, and most importantly, innocent lives could be put at serious risk of harm.”

Analysis by NFU Mutual showed that:

There are currently over 10,000 organisations where food is supplied, sold or consumed across England, Wales and Northern Ireland with a food hygiene rating by the Food Standards Agency of 1 ‘major
improvement necessary’ or 0 ‘urgent improvement is required’ (ratings range from 0- 5, with 5 ‘very good’ being the highest score). This amounts to just over 2% of total food hygiene rated organisations.

In Scotland a different scheme of ‘pass’ or ‘improvement required’ is used, with just over 8% of organisations requiring improvement.