St. Martin's Constable has slammed the “overzealousness” of health rules, after her Parish food bank was forced to close over concerns about the legality of giving out leftover food from supermarkets.
Constable Karen Shenton-Stone said that the food bank was closed last Friday, having operated out of the Parish’s Methodist Church for the past year.
The operation was set up in mid-2020 as a collaboration between the Parish, the Methodist Church and St. Martin’s newly established Marks and Spencer, with the Constable describing it as an “amazing set-up” involving a volunteer force that delivered the food to people.
M&S would give the food they had not sold, and had to get rid of, to the food bank, which Constable Shenton-Stone told Express helped feed four vulnerable families, as well as several other vulnerable members of the Parish. Any excess food would then be given to some of the shelters.
Pictured: The rules revolve around giving food away past its sell-by-date, even if it is only by a single day.
The system worked under the agreement of those taking from the bank that any food given out, which was one day over the sell-by date, would have to be eaten immediately or frozen.
However, she explained that in the summer “we had somebody from Health and Safety coming in and telling us that there were so many restrictions that it was becoming absolutely impossible to [give] food without us being in serious breach of the law.”
Last Friday, the food bank team decided that they couldn’t carry on, feeling it was “impossible” for them to operate without feeling they were in breach of rules.
However, she added that when a volunteer went to pick up food last Friday, not having heard that the food bank was closed, they were told that the food was still being given to the Government to provide for the covid response team.
Pictured: Environment Minister Deputy John Young said that he would be investigating what had happened with the food bank, and tell the Assembly his findings this week.
Remarking on this, Constable Shenton-Stone said she couldn’t get her “head around” the idea that it was okay to give Government workers the food but not those seeking it from food banks.
For the food that would get scrapped too, she brought up the climate emergency, asking: “are we all going to dump this food, which is really gratefully received by the vulnerable?”
The current food hygiene law states that it is an offence to sell “for human consumption any food later than its ‘use by’ date.”
In response to the Constable voicing her concerns yesterday’s States Assembly, Environment Minister Deputy John Young said that labels are split into three categories - ‘Use By', 'Best Before End, and 'Display Until' dates, of which ‘Use By’ was the most “important” one.
He would be investigating the claims, and that his department are currently in the process of producing a new food law.
“There are several charities that already freeze produce on the final day of the 'use by' date, for meals, and then these organisations already comply with the food legislation to protect the consumer, and I understand that system works well,” he said.
“Food banks are a little more complicated in that the control of the food products and any risk associated with it of course move onto the consumer, so regardless the restrictions remain the same, so not to put service users at risk compared to those of other charitable services who facilitate this provision.
“And of course we are producing a new food law which is necessary under the post-Brexit situation, and that will assist supermarkets in providing that food is safe to eat to providing that food to charitable organisations and maintaining the public service…”
He later added that: “As long as that material is taken off shelves and goes to charities for use by those in need, and it’s either cooked at the time [of the final day of the used by date] or frozen, then there’s no reason why it shouldn’t happen - in fact there’s every reason why it should happen rather than it go into the incinerators which is incredibly wasteful.”
He gave his commitment to both investigate the matter, as well as why the food was allegedly still being given to Government workers, and bring a response back within this week’s States Assembly meeting.
Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.
Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.