‘A Practical Guide to Food Law in the United Kingdom – 2nd Edition’ by Ian Thomas


Paperback: 978-1-914608-28-5
Published: December 2021
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A lot has happened since the first edition of ‘A Practical Guide to the Law Relating to Food’ was published in 2018.

The United Kingdom has ceased to be a member of the European Union. This was mentioned in the concluding chapter of the first edition where I said: “Brexit creates uncertainty; businesses, and to some extent, consumers want to avoid uncertainty”.

We now have certainty in some respects. The UK has now left the EU and the regulatory and trading landscape between the two jurisdictions has changed in many ways. However, there remains much that is uncertain; the position of Northern Ireland being a prime example.

Some of the present uncertainty has arisen from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and this has created a double whammy of problems for businesses, regulators, advisers and particularly consumers.

This updated edition highlights, and provide reference point for, some of the major changes to food law in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) arising from the UK being outside the EU. GB legislation required significant updating to take account of GB institutions such as the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland being responsible for matters relating to regulation and authorisations.

Although Northern Ireland remains in the UK, it is currently subject to EU food law and therefore the substantive legal changes in that jurisdiction have been minimal.

The early chapters of the book describe the legal and regulatory changes that have occurred in GB since 31 December 2020, particularly in respect of revisions to retained EU law and domestic food legislation and the authorisation process.

Subsequent chapters focus on safety, hygiene, food information and nutrition and health claims and notes the changes made to domestic legislation.

There follows a discussion about traceability, withdrawal and recalls, official controls and enforcement, prosecutions and sentencing.

It is important to note that despite the major changes necessitated by the UK leaving the EU, much of the day-to-day activity has stayed the same. Food businesses are still obliged to produce safe food that is as described, competent authorities continue to inspect and enforce and the courts make decisions that affect businesses, authorities and consumers.

The book does not lose sight of this and provides practical examples of a food poisoning incident, breaches of hygiene legislation, food information and claims as well as withdrawals and recalls, prosecutions and sentencing.

As this is a practical guide to food law, it has not been possible to make any more than a passing reference to changes relating to customs and trade procedures.

This book may be useful for anyone with a professional interest in food law and regulation whether as students, academics, business operators, workers in the food industry or legal and regulatory professionals. It may also be of interest to anyone who wants a general introduction to the way in which UK food law has developed and continues to develop since 1 January 2021.


Ian Thomas is a dual-qualified specialist food lawyer practising in England and Wales (barrister 1993) and in Ireland (solicitor 2006). He advises on a range of non-contentious and contentious matters and provides advocacy services in relation to criminal prosecutions and appeals against enforcement action (both criminal and civil).

Ian has substantial experience of advising or appearing in court in relation to a wide range of EU and domestic food law matters including; food safety and hygiene, animal welfare (including at the time of killing), food information, health and nutrition claims, food supplements, borderline products, traceability, product withdrawals and recalls, official controls and enforcement powers.

The work involves the interpretation and application of EU food law and involves wider EU principles such as proportionality, necessity and interference with rights.  Domestic legal issues include principles of strict liability and the legal responsibility and liability of corporations and individuals (as food business operators or as company officers).

Ian works with clients in Ireland, the UK, Europe and from around the world. He has the advantage of providing advice to clients on both domestic and EU law, which is particularly beneficial now that the UK has left the EU.

Ian is a Visiting Professor at Ulster University (Faculty of Life and Health Sciences) where he provides lectures and course material for the PgC/PgD/MSc Food Regulatory Affairs and Veterinary Public Health courses. He is an elected Fellow of the Society of Food Hygiene and Technology, a regular speaker at food law conferences and seminars and is a guest lecturer on the Development of Food Law and Policy for the MSc Course in Applied Culinary Nutrition at Technological University Dublin (Tallaght).

Ian is a member of the Food Law Group, the Food Safety Professionals Association and is an affiliate member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. He is also a member of the Certification Committee of Excellence Ireland Quality Association (the Q Mark). He is a consultant with La Touche Training (Dublin) where he provides training on law, practice, procedure, evidence and courtroom skills.

Ian is the author of two books:

‘A Practical Guide to Food Law in the United Kingdom – 2nd Edition’ and

“Covid-19 and the Law Relating to Food in the UK and Republic of Ireland: The Essential Guide”

Recommendations in the Law Directories:

“Extremely knowledgeable in his field.” “He inspires confidence in his clients and is highly skilled at handling all the detail in a case.”
“A very experienced and able operator…Very knowledgeable in food safety and hygiene.”
– Chambers and Partners

“He has considerable knowledge of the food hygiene legal landscape.”
“A true food safety expert, he has a grasp of pitching his in-depth, technical knowledge in the most appropriate commercial context.”
“He is extremely user-friendly and makes advocacy look easy.”
– Legal 500


Chapter One – Food Law in the UK
Chapter Two – The Regulation of Food Businesses and Foodstuffs
Chapter Three – Food Safety
Chapter Four – Food Hygiene
Chapter Five – Food Information to Consumers
Chapter Six – Nutrition and Health Claims
Chapter Seven – Traceability, Withdrawal and Recalls
Chapter Eight – Official Controls and Enforcement
Chapter Nine – Criminal Prosecutions
Chapter Ten – Sentencing
Chapter Eleven – Conclusions and the Future for Food Law in the UK