On 20 March 2020, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (“DEFRA”) has announced a raft of measures relating to food supply and key workers with the easing the impact of COVID-19 for UK retailers and workers.

The Department of Education and Cabinet Office has published guidance on key workers for COVID-19.  The guidance prioritises those who work in sectors considered as critical to the COVID-19 response, including workers involved in the food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example, hygienic and veterinary medicines).  Other key workers include those in health and social care, education and childcare, local and national government etc..  Children that cannot be kept safely at home will have their education prioritised if they have a parent who is considered a key worker.

Whilst DEFRA works closely with the food and drink industry to monitor the situation and impact of the food supply chain, the government agency has introduced measures such as extending delivery hours to supermarkets to allow a higher frequency of deliveries to stores to ensure that shelves are replenished more quickly.  A temporary relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours rules also began from 00:01 on 18 March 2020 to last until 11:59 on 16 April 2020.  This applies solely to drivers involved in the supply of food and other essential products to supermarkets.

New home delivery guidance was issued on 18 March 2020 by the Association of Convenience Stores (“ACS”) on how to safely conduct local grocery deliveries to support those that are self-isolating.  The guidance explains what regulations apply to those thinking of opting for home deliveries and provides simple advice on how to conduct deliveries in a way that best promotes good hygiene and minimises the risk of passing on COVID-19, amongst other viruses.

In response to the evolving situation and requests from retailers, the government plans to outlay legislation next week to relax elements of competition laws temporarily so that retailers can collaborate on contingency plans and share resources as necessary during this period.

The Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) has launched a taskforce today in order to monitor the government’s plan to relax competition law and warns firms suspected of exploiting these exceptional circumstances through unjustifiable prices or misleading claims.  The CMA has already contacted traders and platforms regarding excessive pricing of hand sanitiser.  The taskforce will enable the CMA to advise the government on emergency legislation and how to ensure competition law does not stand in the way of legitimate measures that protect public health as “[t]his is obviously a time when we all have to behave responsibly to protect our fellow citizens, and particularly those who are most vulnerable.  We urge retailers to behave responsibly in the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak” (Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive Officer of the CMA).

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Photo of Brian Kelly Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly is a partner in the European Life Sciences group and also co-chair of Covington’s Global Food Industry Group. Brian’s practice focuses on EU food and drug regulatory law, public and administrative proceedings, EU procurement advice and challenges, internal investigations, European Union…

Brian Kelly is a partner in the European Life Sciences group and also co-chair of Covington’s Global Food Industry Group. Brian’s practice focuses on EU food and drug regulatory law, public and administrative proceedings, EU procurement advice and challenges, internal investigations, European Union law, and product liability and safety. The Chambers Europe Guide to the legal profession lists Brian as part of our “world-class [regulatory and public affairs] team and describes him as a notable practitioner who is “very ambitious, thorough with a sharp intellect”. The Chambers UK Guide quotes clients saying: “his communication and work ethic stand out, he is very hard-working and dedicated when it comes to his cases.”

Brian’s advice on general regulatory matters across all sectors includes borderline determinations, food classifications, tissue and stem cell regulation, adverse event and other reporting obligations, manufacturing controls, labeling and promotion, pricing and reimbursement/procurement, procurement/tenders (including emergency use tenders, EU-wide tenders, Covid-19-related tenders), product life cycle management (foods and medicines), nanotechnology, and anti-bribery and corruption advice. Brian has also been advising on UK and European “Brexit” related issues including tariffs.

Brian has also advised and co-ordinated international projects on advertising/promotion, clinical research, data protection, the regulatory status of borderline products, food/cosmetic ingredient reviews and advises on regulatory aspects of corporate/commercial deals, particularly regulatory due diligence.

Brian is also experienced in representing clients in administrative and enforcement proceedings before regulatory authorities and in the UK and EU courts.

Brian is an honorary lecturer at University College London.

Photo of Katharina Ewert Katharina Ewert

Katharina Ewert helps major national and multinational companies in the food, medical device, pharmaceutical and cosmetics sectors to navigate regulatory, litigation and procurement risks. With a strong background in general EU law and procedure, Katharina provides strategic advice to clients in a changing…

Katharina Ewert helps major national and multinational companies in the food, medical device, pharmaceutical and cosmetics sectors to navigate regulatory, litigation and procurement risks. With a strong background in general EU law and procedure, Katharina provides strategic advice to clients in a changing regulatory environment. Katharina is a member of Covington’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Katharina is a member of Covington’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

  • In her work with a broad range of life sciences companies, Katharina regularly:
  • advises clients on all aspects of food development and marketing, including the regulation of ingredients, labelling and advertising;
  • helps companies in evaluating health and nutrition claims for foods and food supplements, as well as marketing claims for cosmetics;
  • provides strategic advice to major companies in the medicines and device space on national and EU public procurement considerations;
  • assists clients in navigating the implications of Brexit; and
  • represents clients in administrative proceedings in the national and EU courts.

Katharina’s pro bono work includes advising charities on corporate, commercial and public procurement matters.

Katharina gained valuable experience during a secondment the in-house legal team of a global pharmaceutical company.

Hannah Berry

Hannah Berry  is a Trainee Solicitor who attended BPP University – London, Holborn.