New food products
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Developing new food products

View profile for Martin Jinks
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Much of the detailed legislation governing the standards of food in the UK originates in the European Union and it is here that food producers must start when seeking to introduce a new product into the UK market.

There are a seemingly endless number of regulations covering every aspect of food production, processing, animal rearing, hygiene, handling and health & safety which need to be taken into account.

The legislation is designed to ensure standardisation of product quality across the EU and while the laws may seem onerous and overly bureaucratic, they should be viewed as an indispensable element of the product’s saleability as it is these pieces of legislation which combine to protect consumers.
In Great Britain, the main framework governing food law is established in The Food Safety Act of 1990 and the General Food Regulations of 2004. These laws exist to ensure the safety of food products on the shelves and protect consumers from malpractice.

The product you wish to begin marketing will determine which laws are applicable to you and which you can dismiss. General regulations which are applicable to all operations - those pertaining to handling, processing and storage for example – are reasonably straight-forward to interpret and identify much of what people might term common sense.

The 1990 Act also details a range of specific offences which cover various malicious acts of altering the food product ingredients either by contamination or extraction.

The more complicated the product, the more regulations you will need to bear in mind. So bringing a piece of fresh fruit to market is less convoluted than a product with multiple ingredients.

You must also consider what licensing agreements are already in place covering your product or similar products. To take the fruit example again, you must be absolutely sure that no exclusive licensing arrangement is in place covering the specific variety you wish to market. The legal system exists to protect these licence arrangements which are well-founded in case law.

Finally, you should carefully consider the packaging and messaging on the packages of your product. Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) and Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) orders exists to protect the producers of certain products made in specific towns, regions or sometimes countries. Ignoring these designations will land you in legal hot water and with a substantial bill to remove products from sale and re-package.

While law around food products may at times feel over the top and draconian, it exists to underpin the single most vital element of any food product: consumer confidence.