18 January 1999
Farmers to be liable for produce

FARMERS are to be made legally liable for the food they produce – opening the way for them to be prosecuted for food poisoning.

Proposals for “strict liability” laws mean that disgruntled consumers will not be required to prove any farmers fault or negligence, only to show a causal link.

The European Parliament is expected to pass the measure in March before being incorporated into British law by amendment of the Consumer Protection Act.

A lawyer for the Consumers Association said the new law would increase pressure on supermarkets and food processors to accurately track food supplies.

But the National Farmers Union warned of “potentially serious difficulties” with foods such as grain or milk, where the produce of different farms is combined.

It also expressed concerns that farmers could be made liable for factors outside their control such as contamination of the crops through atmospheric pollution.