Jim Winship

Director, British Sandwich Association

The news that Bream UK, a sandwich manufacturer in Southall, London, has been fined £20,000 for hygiene-related offences highlights an increasing unease in the sandwich industry over poor standards.

The concerns arise due to some smaller producers struggling and seeking to cut corners and prices to stay in business, plus the influx of new entrants who have little or no food handling experience and often do not appreciate the risks associated with making short shelf-life chilled foods.

The fear for everyone is the potential risk to consumers and the damage that could be done to the market by a serious incident of food poisoning caused by one of these operations.

Although the British Sandwich Association introduced minimum standards for making sandwiches in both manufacturing and foodservice over 18 years ago, some operators still do not meet the basics it believes necessary to run a sandwich business. Yet more worrying is the fact that some commercial buyers are prepared to buy sandwiches from manufacturers without asking questions. Yet no prosecutions seem to have been made regarding their responsibilities under due diligence.

With the vast majority of sandwich manufacturers nowadays accredited (and audited) by the Association, there really should be no excuses for buyers not to check out their suppliers.

Also, some operators in the sandwich bar market are seeking to expand their trade by supplying to third-party retailers without fully appreciating the potential consequences of adding shelf-life to products produced in a kitchen or bakery environment. This requires stringent production controls that most sandwich bars and bakers do not have.

We need to get the message across to everyone particularly retail buyers that it is their responsibility to check out suppliers and that it is unacceptable to put consumer safety at risk by buying dirt cheap products for the sake of a few pence extra profit.