News item

Trading Standards in Supreme Court for landmark food labelling case

Torfaen council’s Trading Standards team took action in the Supreme Court on 9th July in a landmark food labelling case against Cwmbran based butchers, Douglas Willis Ltd.

The case has been on-going since 2010 when Torfaen Officers found frozen meat with expired use-by-dates on the packaging and some without labelling at all, making it difficult to know when the use by date would be. Some frozen food was found to be sold 14 months past the expiry date.

Douglas Willis Ltd went before Newport Magistrates Court in September 2011 where the case was thrown out by the Magistrates, saying there was no proof that the food was 'highly perishable' and thereby an imminent danger to human health. However, Torfaen Council has challenged this decision and the case was taken to the Supreme Court in London on Tuesday, 9th July.

A Supreme Court Judgement was handed down today, Wednesday 31 July, which states that the case should be remitted back to a new bench of Justices at the Magistrates court. The rehearing should be in accordance with the law stated in the Supreme Court’s judgment, which is that “under regulation 44(1)(d) of The Food Labelling Regulations 1996 it is sufficient for the prosecution to prove that the defendant had food in its possession for the purpose of sale which was the subject of a mark or label showing a “use by” date which had passed.

Steve Whitehouse, Head of Trading Standards for Torfaen Council said: "The legal arguments in this case have been recognised as having significant importance nationally both for Local Authority enforcers and for the food industry generally. This case was taken by Torfaen County Borough Council with the support of the Food Standards Agency. 

"Local Authorities have a statutory responsibility to enforce the provisions of the Food Safety Act which includes provisions governing food labelling and durability dates on foods. Part of this enforcement involves making sure the safety of consumers is protected and conducting inspections of food products at business premises with the aim of ensuring that businesses do not gain an advantage over competitors.

"The Supreme Court judgement now clarifies beyond doubt that food that has past its “Use by” date should never be sold to consumers.”

DATE: 1 August 2013