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Food supplier fails to test food hygiene

Denise (not her real name) was a manager for a food supplier in the airline industry. Denise’s employer had reduced the number of staff on her team which meant that she and her remaining co-workers did not have capacity to conduct food and hygiene tests on goods. This risked leaving the food unsafe to eat so Denise raised her concern to her line manager but she was ignored and later dismissed.

We advised that Denise now contact either the Food Standards Agency or the local authority as the employer was not taking action. We also advised that the concerns would likely fall within the scope of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 so she could bring a legal claim for her dismissal. We highlighted that the short time between raising concerns and being dismissed strengthened her argument that she was dismissed for whistleblowing. We suggested that she seek support from her trade union before submitting a claim in the Employment Tribunal.

Food producer exposes goods to contamination

Blake (not his real name) worked as an engineer for a food producer. He was concerned that products were not being properly cleaned during production and goods were being exposed to contaminated water and excess chemicals. He also told us that the warehouse where he worked did not have a safe fire alarm system.

Blake raised his concerns confidentially to the CEO but no action was taken – instead, he was threatened with disciplinary action. Blake raised concerns to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), but the employer was given enough notice of an investigation to superficially address the concerns. Blake was forced to resign and sought advice on making a claim for constructive dismissal. 

We identified that Blake was fast approaching the time limit for bringing a claim so we suggested that he try to argue that he had suffered a continuing act of detriment over many months and seek urgent advice from his Trade Union. The HSE had since revisited the warehouse on several occasions and Blake was satisfied that the regulator was taking action. Blake submitted his claim in the Employment Tribunal in time and his case is to be heard in late 2020.

Food manufacturer sells out of date and illegal food

Allan (not his real name) worked for a manufacturer of international food products. He was concerned by a number of incidents that he had witnessed. He told us that use-by-dates on products were regularly removed and changed, and illegally imported products were hidden during inspections from Trading Standards. He was also concerned that colleagues were made to work with chemicals without the proper training and protective equipment. Allan had tried to raise concerns with the owner of the business, but was told that this was the only way that the company could make a profit. Allan called Protect for advice.

We reassured Allan that he had done the right thing by highlighting the concerns to the owner. We suggested that he now speak either to the Food Standards Agency or the local authority who could conduct an investigation without drawing attention to him. He could first have a hypothetical conversation with them to understand what action they might take. We explained Allan’s legal rights as a whistleblower and how he could bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal if he was victimised.

Unsafe food practices resolved by whistleblower speaking up

David (not his real name) was a maintenance engineer at a large UK food manufacturer. The company was in the process of transferring its production to a new building which involved using welding equipment and potentially hazardous cleaning materials. David was concerned that this could contaminate food on the production line. He worried that management and maintenance supervisors had ignored the contamination and hygiene hazards, despite other employees having similar concerns.

We advised David to raise the concern internally either to his supervisor or a responsible senior manager. They were not fully aware of the situation so David could explain his concerns and recommend closing the food line during the transfer. If no action was taken, he could consider contacting the Food Standards Agency.

David spoke to senior management who agreed with his concerns. They provided training to the relevant parties and stopped the transfer during production hours.