Coronavirus and the food industry
27 March 2020
Since the beginning of March, the spread of COVID-19 has led to a huge increase in demand in the Food Industry. In response to this, the Government has introduced provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020 to assist in maintaining an efficient and equitable food supply in the event of any disruption.
Currently, the Government relies upon voluntary disclosure of information by entities involved in the food supply chain. The Coronavirus Act 2020 now permits the Government to require an entity that is in, or closely connected with, the food supply chain to provide relevant information, such as the location of certain food stocks. The Government can only require disclosure where that entity has previously failed to supply the requested information or the information supplied was false. Any information requested must be necessary to establish whether the whole or part of a food supply chain is being disrupted or is at risk of disruption.
The entities that can be required to provide information include:
- those supplying seeds, stock, equipment, feed, fertiliser, pesticides or similar items to producers for use in agriculture, fishing or aquaculture
- producers in the agriculture, fishing or aquaculture sectors
- any intermediary between the producers and the consumers in the supply chain; and
- those providing goods or services to producers or intermediaries which relate to the safety or quality of food or drink or the welfare of animals.
These provisions do not affect individuals, such as sole traders.
Importantly, any information disclosed will not breach an obligation of confidence owed by the entity making the disclosure to another party. Where an entity fails to supply the required information or the information supplied is false or misleading, the Government may impose a fine of up to 1% of the entity’s turnover.
Looking ahead, those involved in the food supply chain should be aware of the Government’s ability to require disclosure and provide relevant information when requested to do so to avoid these new provisions being enforced.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at March 2020.