The number of organisations sentenced for food safety and hygiene offences more than doubled from around 60 in 2013 to 130 in 2016, when new sentencing guidelines were introduced in England and Wales.
The research by NFU Mutual also reveals the average fine has increased by nearly £5,000.
The Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences guideline for England and Wales came into force in 2016. It helps to ensure that imposed fines are proportionate to the circumstances and seriousness of the offence, including accountability and harm.
Warning business owners of the dangers of poor food hygiene and safety practices, Darren Seward, food and drink sector specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “To see an increase in penalties is positive for the food and drink industry as a whole. The vast majority of businesses work incredibly hard to meet their hygiene and safety obligation, and the irresponsible businesses which demean that are being held more accountable for poor conduct.
“Managers have a duty to put hygiene and safety at the heart of the company’s values to prevent getting into a serious situation in the first place, and damage as a result of hygiene issues reaches much further than a fine. Company reputation can be destroyed overnight, the directors responsible can be prosecuted, putting a fatal ending to their career in the industry, and most importantly, innocent lives could be put at serious risk of harm. Getting it right takes work but there is no excuse in the eyes of the law, or indeed the public.”
The research also showed the number of individual offenders (such as directors or senior managers) increased from 180 in 2015 to 260 in 2017.
In 2017, a fine was imposed on 92% of offenders, 3% received a suspended sentence, 2% were issued with a community order, and less than 1% were sentenced to immediate custody.
The mean fine amount for individuals increased from around £930 to £1,300 post-guideline, while fewer appeals against sentence were successful.