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Food & Drink update – January 2016

Limes Print publication

18/01/2016

Richard Naish of the Walker Morris Food & Drink Group presents a round-up of some recent legal developments in the sector.

Modern slavery

We have written previously about the coming into effect of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (the Act) and the accompanying government guidance.

An illustration of the applicability of the Act to the Food and Drink sector came in November last year with the report that Nestlé had found potential slavery and child labour in its Thai seafood supply chain. The report also supports a point made in the Government guidance, that a good starting point in preparing for the Act is to explore what existing initiatives there may be in respect of a region or product, such as, in the case of seafood, the Seafood Ethics Common Language Group and the Seafood Responsible Fishing Scheme, and to establish also whether there may be actual or potential partners working in a region who can assist in ensuring ethical working practices in the supply chain.

Promotions and pricing

The Government’s ‘Better Deal’ report, published on 30 November 2015, contains proposals with the objective of improving competition in a number of sectors including banking, energy, water and telecommunications. Part of the ethos of the Better Deal report is to enhance pricing transparency in markets that impact families. The Food and Drink sector is not identified at this stage as a sector warranting scrutiny but once the initiatives outlined in the Better Deal report gain traction it would be surprising if the sector remained excluded, given its impact on families.

Meanwhile, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute is currently consulting on a new Pricing Practices Guide, which, when implemented, may require Food and Drink retailers to review pricing and promotion strategies.

“Free-from” claims

The British Retail Consortium and Food and Drink Federation have jointly published guidance on the conditions for making “free-from” claims.

There are currently no specific UK or EU regulations governing the making of free-from claims, other than in respect of gluten-free claims. Nor, until now, has there been publicly available guidance for businesses making such claims. The guidance makes clear that a “free-from” claim should only be made “following a rigorous assessment of the ingredients, process and environment” and goes on to set out the relevant considerations before making a “free-from” claim. The guidance can be accessed here.

The issue of promotions and pricing was put back into focus by Which?’s 2015 super-complaint about misleading and unclear practices in the sector. We considered the Which? super-complaint and the application of the Office of Fair Trading’s “Principles of Food Pricing Display and Promotional Practices” guidance, more fully in an earlier briefing.

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