The number of businesses sentenced in court for food safety and hygiene offences have more than doubled since 2013, according to research by NFU Mutual.
The number of firms convicted of offences rose from about 60 in 2013 to 130 in 2016, remaining stable in the years since.
New sentencing guidelines, introduced in 2016, have also seen fines for organisations increase by approximately £5,000, according to an impact assessment published by the Sentencing Council in April.
Of those convicted of food safety and hygiene offences in 2017 94% received a fine and the average amount demanded was £7,100, up from £2,200 under the previous regulations.
The impact assessment also found a small rise in fines issued against individuals, such as directors or senior managers. The number of individual offenders convicted rose from 180 in 2015 to 260 in 2017 with 92% receiving fines. The average amount demanded rose from £930 before the guideline change to £1,300 afterwards.
Darren Seward, hospitality and food and drink sector specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “To see an increase in penalties is positive for the food service 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.”