The ‘sale’ of food with expired ‘use-by’ dates

The Supreme Court has ruled that it is sufficient, for the purposes of a prosecution pursuant to regulation 44(1)(d) of the Food Labelling Regulations 1996, for the prosecution to prove that the defendant had food in its possession for the purpose of sale that was the subject of a mark or label showing a ‘use-by’ date that had passed. 

In Torfaen County Borough Council v Douglas Willis Ltd, inspectors from the local authority’s trading standards department visited the respondent company’s premises, where they found a number of packages of frozen meat with ‘use-by’ dates that had passed. Willis, in the business of buying, processing and selling meats, was tried on 23 charges of selling food ‘after the date shown in the use-by date relating to it’ contrary to regulation 44(1)(d) of the Food Labelling Regulations 1996.

The charges were dismissed by Gwent justices. The justices accepted that there was no offence under the regulations, concluding that since the food items were all frozen at the time of the inspection, they were not then ‘highly perishable’ and so did not require a ‘use-by’ date under the regulations. The council appealed by way of case stated, arguing that the prosecution only had to show that Willis was ‘selling’ (within the regulations’ definition) food that was the subject of a ‘use-by’ label displaying a date that had passed…

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