Supreme Court refers important food safety case to the Court of Justice of the European Union

July 29, 2019

On 24 July 2019 the Supreme Court handed down judgment in R (on the application of Association of Independent Meat Suppliers and Another) v Food Standards Agency [2019] UKSC 36.

The case involves a legal dispute as to whether slaughterhouse operators have a right to challenge the decisions of state appointed “Official Veterinarians” when carrying out official controls at approved slaughterhouses to declare the meat of a carcase as unfit for human consumption. The issues in the case are whether the Food Standards Agency was required to follow the procedure in section 9 of the Food Safety Act 1990 or, alternatively, whether it was incumbent on the United Kingdom to provide some means for a slaughterhouse operator to challenge the decisions of the Official Veterinarians.

The Supreme Court has made no decision at this stage. It has referred two questions to the CJEU. Those questions are in essence, first, whether the EU Regulations relevant to this case preclude a procedure whereby pursuant to section 9 of the Food Safety Act 1990 a Justice of Peace decides on the merits of the case and on the basis of expert evidence called by each side whether a carcase fails to comply with the food safety requirements. The second question is whether one of the EU Regulations which is relevant (Regulation (EC) 882/2004) actually mandates that there should be a right of appeal against the decisions of the Official Veterinarians and, if it does, what approach should be taken in reviewing the merits of those decisions on an appeal in such a case.

A copy of the judgment of the Supreme Court can be found here.

Stephen Hockman QC and David Hercock of Six Pump Court, instructed by Hannah Leese of Roythornes Solicitors, are acting on behalf of the Appellants.