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Media Comment: Katie Vickery, International Regulatory and Compliance Partner at Osborne Clarke, comments on Tesco's fine for selling out-of-date food


Written on 22 April 2021

Katie Vickery, International Regulatory and Compliance Partner at Osborne Clarke, comments on Tesco being fined £7.56m for selling out-of-date food in Birmingham:

“Although the level of the Tesco fine is high, it will have been determined based on the size of the company and also the number of previous convictions that Tesco has received. Tesco has battled Birmingham City Council before, most notable over misleading strawberry prices where it was fined £300,000. In the current climate where regulatory fines are supposed to have a meaningful deterrent effect the size of the fine is not totally surprising.”

“It is a challenge for a food business of scale to ensure that there is no food beyond its use by date on the shelves. While technology has helped in recent years, typically this is a manual process and people make mistakes. Legally the position is that if you sell food that is beyond its use by date you commit an offence. Tesco tried to challenge this last year when it argued in the Divisional Court that the law was wrong to presume that food that was past its use by date was automatically unsafe. Tesco presented compelling evidence from a leading microbiologist that the out of date food found in the stores in Birmingham was still safe to eat. The Divisional Court disagreed and confirmed that simply selling food past its use by date was enough to commit the offence.”

“For other food businesses this should serve as a reminder of the importance of having good systems, training and monitoring in place to remove out of date foods.”

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