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Food Standards Agency Scotland Declares Rare Burgers Off the Menu

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Food Standards Agency Scotland Declares Rare Burgers Off the Menu

Food Standards Agency Scotland Declares Rare Burgers Off the Menu
May 23
11:39 2017

James-McMillan-low-683x1024After Food Standards Scotland signalled that it was taking an even tougher stance on minced meat products than its counterpart south of the Border, caterers now face losing their livelihoods and even their liberty if they serve a rare burger.

James McMillan looks at the tightening rules and the trends for tougher sentencing will affect business owners…

What has changed regarding the serving of rare burgers?

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in England and Wales recently introduced new guidelines addressing the serving of minced meat products, including burgers, which make clear that such products must be thoroughly cooked, except where specific approval has been obtained from the customer and the meat comes from an FSA-approved supplier.

Meanwhile, Food Standards Scotland appears to have taken an even tougher stance, even forcing a restaurant in Glasgow to refrain altogether from selling rare burgers.  The concern of both regulators is that E. coli bacteria, could be present throughout mincemeat, rather than merely on the surface area.

What are the potential consequences of breaking these rules?

The FSA and FSS crackdown on minced meat comes at a time when draconian new sentencing guidelines for health, safety and food hygiene offences in England and Wales have just been introduced. When deciding the level of fine, judges now consider business turnover and the potential harm a breach could have caused or did cause. The level of fines is potentially crippling for high turnover, low margin operations, which are common in the catering and hospitality sector.

The Scottish courts will heed these guidelines too; indeed, it would be unthinkable for it to be cheaper to endanger or injure someone in Scotland than in England, and it is only a matter of time before a similar approach is adopted for food hygiene and labelling offences.

In serious cases, small business owners may be held personally liable for breaches that put people in serious danger; potentially they could even face jail sentences.

Are there any other recent food laws of which catering operations should be aware?

Under the latest EU Food Information for Consumers regulations, now in force, businesses preparing and selling pre-packaged food and drink must provide details of 14 major allergens present in the food they serve.

What measures should pubs, restaurants and other caters take to avoid falling foul of these rules?

Effective staff training is crucial. Managers and business owners must keep up to date with the FSA and FSS guidelines on food hygiene, and they should pass them on to frontline staff through clear, unequivocal policies.

Similarly, everyone involved in selling food and drink should be aware of the allergen regulations, and at the very least be prepared to advise customers and officials accordingly.

James McMillan is an associate in the fraud, investigations and business crime practice at Maclay Murray & Spens LLP.


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Catering Scotland

Catering Scotland

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