Food company makes a large payment to charity following pollution incident

Close-up of waves on water Print publication


A major supplier of food and drink ingredients in the Midlands has paid £150,000 to charity after pollution entered the watercourse in 2015. Fuerst Day Lawson Limited entered into an Enforcement Undertaking to the Environment Agency after ‘polluting matter’ entered balancing pools and ultimately a tributary of the River Trent in the summer of 2015. The undertaking was accepted by the Environment Agency in September 2018 but has only just been made public.

An Enforcement Undertaking gives companies the chance to provide recompense following a pollution incident and is an alternative to prosecution. It is a civil penalty for a criminal offence. The polluter must accept responsibility for the offence before an Enforcement Undertaking can be entered into but it has several advantages over the traditional prosecution route where fines can be much higher and liability can be imposed directly on officers of the company.

As well as donating £150,000 to the River Trent Trust, the company was also ordered to pay the Environment Agency’s costs of nearly £120,000. The company was also ordered to carry out extensive improvements to its site to prevent similar pollution happening again.

Environment officer Emma Swindail said: “Fuerst Day Lawson offered an Enforcement Undertaking to the Environment Agency, which was accepted in September 2018. The donation to the trust will be used to fund environmentally beneficial projects being carried out in the Stoke-on-Trent area. Enforcement Undertakings are an effective enforcement tool enabling companies to address non-compliance with environmental regulations which provides support for suitable environmental projects.

WM Comment

The Environmental and Regulatory teams at Walker Morris are experienced at advising food and drink businesses on all aspects of Environmental Law and partner Alison Ogley has particular experience dealing with enforcement action taken by the Environment Agency and other regulators. It is important that food and drink business operators fully understand their environmental responsibilities and understand the risks that they are exposed to.