We asked Roythornes Solicitors to tell us about the food law landscape for 2014.
This is what the team said:
2013 was, without question, a year dominated by supply chain and provenance issues, and the horsemeat debacle won't be going away any time soon. The legislative response to this is yet to play out in full and it is likely to re-appear in some of the food headlines in 2014.
These are the top five themes that we [Roythornes] believe will lead discussions around food law in 2014.
Grocery code adjudicator
Following the granting of Royal Assent to the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) Bill in April 2013 and an independent review into Britain's food system, 2014 will see an examination of how the GCA can deliver fairer food supply chains and stronger growth in the industry.
We may see the Groceries Supply Code of Practice being enforced more stringently and the future of the food supply chain come under scrutiny. It will be interesting to see how Government, regulators and the food industry can work together to strengthen consumer confidence in the provenance of food products.
With growing concern over the UK's food waste, we threw away 4.2m tonnes of food and drink last year worth £12.5bn. According to WRAP, there will be significant legislative attempts to reduce worrying national food waste rates.
We're already seeing bans on food waste to landfill proposed, but there are likely to be more robust proposals and an approach that supports innovative techniques which lengthen shelf-life.
EU ingredient control
Ingredient control is an increasing global concern. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is eliminating the use of trans-fats in the US food supply chain, and this trend is likely to cross the Atlantic as health becomes more and more important.
The EU commission recently asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to assess the health implications of phosphate additives. The EFSA has said it will collect data from the industry phosphate levels in food, in an effort to understand whether they pose any risk.
Supply chains, provenance and labelling
Influenced by the horsemeat scandal, the EU Commission recently proposed to make it mandatory for ready meal manufacturers to mention the origin of meat used in the product on their packaging.
The Commission initially blocked an adoption of the report until a later date, however, proponents of the measure have stepped up their lobbying. French authorities are particularly committed, and will raise the issue at a meeting of the Agriculture Council scheduled in December.
It is clear that meat provenance will continue to dominate many agendas, and ready meal labelling is one area where the EU will focus its attention in 2014
Zero-hours contract/living wage
The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) bared its teeth this year, suspending licences and investigating fraudulent gangmasters resulting in a string of arrests. However, human trafficking and exploitation is still endemic in the food processing and agricultural sectors.
To help curb systematic abuses, the food manufacturing industry will face demands to scrap zero- hours contracts and honour the living wage in 2014.