Lancashire analyst's test results lead to £7K fine for Bradford woman over false food claims
The director of a Bradford-based company has been ordered to pay a total of £7695.43 for unlawfully claiming the health benefits of various food products, including weight-loss and protection from virus claims. Wendy Atkinson, of Modern Herbals, Clayton Lane, Bradford, was sentenced on Wednesday at Leeds Magistrates Court after previously pleading guilty in June to seven offences under the Nutrition and Health Claims (England) Regulations 2007.
The prosecution was brought by West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service with Atkinson also pleading guilty to an offence under the Food Safety Act 1990, relating to the supply of a Noni juice fruit drink that was labelled to contain Vitamin C, when in fact it did not contain any. Under the 2007 regulations, claims must not be made about the benefits of foods and food supplements unless they are authorised by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and listed on a register. EFSA will only authenticate health claims when there is scientific evidence to back them up.
The Court heard that following a routine inspection in 2015, advice was provided regarding the legality of health claims made on the company’s website. Despite this, Atkinson continued to deliberately make unauthorised health claims on the website and consequently legal proceedings were initiated against the company. Offences were laid against a range of different products that were making various unsubstantiated claims regarding how they could benefit a customer’s health and wellbeing. These included reducing pain and inflammation, reducing swelling, increasing metabolic rate to improve weight loss, aiding digestion and improving respiration.
Councillor Jo Hepworth, Chair of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee, which oversees the work of Trading Standards, said: “This is a significant case which serves to reassure the public that Trading Standards will ensure businesses compete on a level playing field and that consumers are not misled regarding claims associated with foods. By supplying the product using claims which were not backed by scientific evidence, the company was misleading vulnerable people who believed that their health conditions would be improved.”
David Lodge, head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said: “This fine demonstrates the seriousness with which the courts view food business operators who flout their legal responsibilities. Consumers rightly expect to get what they pay for and Trading Standards will continue to take action against any businesses exploiting vulnerable consumers and making misleading and false claims. West Yorkshire Trading Standards will always work with businesses to help them improve and maintain standards, but we will not hesitate to take action against those who take advantage of vulnerable consumers by deliberately or persistently flouting the law.”