In the last decade, the farming industry has seen a significant shift towards diversification as modern farmers attempt to separate themselves from the competition. They are constantly looking for different ways to market their products.
However there are serious legal implications about making unsubstantial claims about products and agriculture law expert, Liz Barr, has warned of the dangers of mis-labelling or mis-representing.
Liz, who heads up the Land and Rural team at Scottish legal firm Thorntons, said: "The farming industry is highly competitive and it is a challenge to differentiate from the rest of the sector. Whether it is a cereal grower selling to a supermarket chain, or fruit and jams being sold in the farm shop, farmers need to be careful about what is said about their products.
"There is a danger that the claims made could be misleading and as many farms are set up in a traditional partnership arrangement, personal liability will occur if the farm is making unsubstantiated health or other claims about its goods.
"This area is governed by EU Regulation and there are a lot of rules around food advertising. The general principle can be taken that if you have scientifically tested or analysed a food and it does have health or nutritional benefit, you can state these either in pictorial or text form on labels or other marketing materials.
"However a lot of health claims do get rejected and the regulations for passing the scientific testing are very strict."
Despite this, Liz is confident that current changes being made to the law will be of benefit.
She added: "Uniformity is being created and despite the EU repealing its 'bendy banana law', the efforts it is making to allow consumers and producers to know what is acceptable is a good idea and forward thinking."
Liz is speaking ahead of the third International Blackcurrant Conference, which will be held in Dundee next week.
Thorntons is one of the official sponsors and will be involved in the three-day conference. Lesley Larg, partner in the Intellectual Property team who works closely with Liz's team on these and other legal issues affecting food varieties, will deliver a presentation on the legal implications surrounding any false health claims made and Liz will also be available to delegates for consultation on the issue.
From a farming family herself, Liz believes the conference will be of great benefit to those attending. She said: "The conference has been organised by the James Hutton Institute and the itinerary is jam-packed, if you pardon the pun. It is a great opportunity for Thorntons to speak in front of international delegates and we are thrilled to be involved.
"The legal issues that could face blackcurrant growers need to be addressed and our presentation will hopefully provide some useful advice and tips for those who attend."
Liz has been an accredited as a specialist in agricultural law for more than 10 years and was the first female in Scotland to be accredited by the Law Society of Scotland for her work in this unique field.
Issued by Beattie Communications on behalf of Thorntons Solicitors.
Contact: Jennifer Black, Tel 01698 787878