Life Sciences and Food

Chambers has been a market leader in the Life Sciences sector for over 30 years and was a founding member of the Food Law Group in 1990. Members of Chambers write a number of the leading practitioner texts, including Butterworths Law of Food and Drugs (edited in Chambers for over 20 years).

Gough Square’s barristers act in matters involving food (including novel foods and dietary supplements), cosmetics, cosmeceuticals, tobacco (including novel tobacco products), novel psychoactive substances, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and borderline medicinal products.Members of chambers act for businesses and individuals involved with food production, import/export, packaging and retailing, in addition to acting for enforcement agencies across the whole range. We have particular expertise in defending food poisoning cases. Members of chambers have recently been instructed to prosecute cases against manufacturers and supermarkets on the verification of drained weight, governed by the WELMEC guidance, in relation to various tinned foods, including beans and peeled potatoes. These often involve detailed consideration of the due diligence defence.

Chambers is one of the few sets to maintain genuine specialism in enforcement, advertising, importation, and licensing in this field. Members have particular experience of regulatory investigations and enforcement proceedings brought against businesses in the Life Sciences sector.

Representative work includes:

  • Acting for some the UK’s largest beauty companies on labelling and content cases involving cosmetics and cosmeceuticals.
  • Developing particular recent expertise in Cannabidiol (CBD) and novel foods regulation. Members of Chambers include some of the Bar’s leading experts on CBD regulation – the first novel food authorisation process undertaken by UK regulators since Brexit. Chambers represented the CBD industry before the EU Commission inquiry on CBD in 2019 and has subsequently acted for UK CBD retailers in challenging decisions taken by the Food Standards Agency and local authorities.
  • Regularly acting for both regulators and businesses in enforcement proceedings brought against importers and manufacturers.
  • Representing all of the UK’s major supermarkets in a range of regulatory and enforcement proceedings involving food safety, labelling, allergen requirements, and misleading food descriptions.
  • Advising on novel tobacco product regulation and acting in enforcement proceedings involving such products
  • Advising on health claims and nutrition claims – e.g. perimeter advice and compliance with the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation 2006

Members of Chambers have appeared in some of the most significant life sciences cases of the last 20 years at every level from the magistrates’ courts to the Supreme Court. Representative cases include:

  • R (Healthspan Ltd) v Food Standards Agency [2022]: CBD products; challenge to FSA CBD policy;

  • X Ltd v Home Office [2021]: dispute with UK Border Force; seizure of hemp biomass; claim under Customs and Excise Management Act 1979;

  • R (Tesco Stores Ltd) v Birmingham MC [2021] 1 All E.R. 158: food labelling; ‘use by’ dates;

  • Y Ltd v Department of Health [2019]: dispute concerning novel tobacco products; interpretation of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002;

  • Marwaha v UK Border Revenue Agency [2017] EWHC 2321 (Admin): imported poppy straw; interpretation of Misuse of Drugs Act 1971;

  • Wandsworth LBC v Caffe Nero Group Ltd (Wimbledon Magistrates’ court, March 2016): successful due diligence defence; food safety offences; wire in panini ingested by consumer; unauthorised use by employee, in breach of training and systems;

  • R (Kingston upon Hull City Council) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (High Court, 2016): judicial review of endorsement by BIS’ Better Regulation Delivery Office (‘BRDO’) of advice given under the Primary Authority Scheme to Greggs plc, concerning provision of sanitary facilities;
  • Torfaen CBC v Douglas Willis Ltd [2013] UKSC 59: successful appeal to the Supreme Court; food labelling; ‘use by’ dates;
  • Birmingham CC v Tesco Stores Limited [2013]: pricing under CPUT (strawberries);
  • R v Alan Rich Seafoods Limited [2010]: successful prosecution of a food business and its proprietor for serious breaches of the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 and the Animal By Products Regulations 2005;
  • Three Rivers District Council v. Chowdhury [2009] EWHC 268: interpretation of “food business operator”;
  • West Berkshire CC v Childcare (UK) Ltd [2008]: successful defence of nursery; swiss roll allegedly contaminated; cause of salmonella outbreak;
  • R (J Sainsbury Plc) v. Plymouth Magistrates’ Court (2006) 170 JP 690: corporate defendant; wrong defendant;
  • Kilhey Court Hotels Ltd. v. Wigan MBC (2005) 169 JP 1: due diligence defence; person whose default led to commission of offence not included in defence case;
  • Lewin v. Purity Soft Drinks Ltd (2005) 169 J.P. 84: labels on fruit juice; misleading trade descriptions;
  • Harlow District Council v. Greene King Plc [2004] 2 All ER 102: proprietor of food business; group holding company;
  • Nottingham City Council v. Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries Ltd [2004] 1 QB 1274: sale of alcoholic beverages; owner of premises;
  • DEFRA v Asda Stores Ltd (HL) [2004] 1 W.L.R. 105: agricultural produce; direct effect; EC grading rules.

Publications contributed to by members of chambers include:

Chambers takes a stand at the CIEH Conference annually and members regularly give and attend lectures organised by the Institute. For details of our attendance at this year’s Conference please visit our News page. Members of chambers are founding members of, and regularly give lectures to the Food Law Group.