Food & Drink

The Practice

Arthur Cox is one of the few Irish law firms to have a specialist, multidisciplinary Food & Drink Group, comprising lawyers from other key practice groups within the firm. Our Food & Drink Group advises food, drink and agribusiness companies on the manufacture, promotion and sale of their products in Ireland.

With our in-depth knowledge of these sectors, our specialist team can guide you through the regulatory regime on food and feed safety; food and feed hygiene and HACCP; food packaging, labelling, advertising and marketing of food and drink products; and nutrition and health claims and restrictions on allergens and additives.

We also advise our clients on regulatory compliance issues, including good manufacturing practice requirements, which may provide a defence in regulatory proceedings. We can guide you through your obligations on waste packaging, food waste and animal by-products. We can also advise on carbon footprinting and carbon-labelling.

All members of the group are experienced litigators. We provide comprehensive and strategic advice, both at the pre-litigation stage and in contentious and non-contentious cases, in relation to the anticipation and management of risk, product recall and crisis management strategies.

We also advise on regulatory breach, enforcement proceedings, product safety and liability, nuisance, environmental breach and on any associated litigation. In doing so, we will work with you to ensure that your business reputation, brand reputation and financial interests are protected.

We understand the opportunities for our clients presented by the growth of the food, drink, agribusiness, aquaculture and beverage sectors and we assist clients, from producers and manufacturers to distributors and retailers, to exploit those opportunities to maximum effect. At a national level, we are keen to assist food and drink companies in playing their part in delivering on Ireland’s Food Harvest 2020 targets and the objectives set out in the Organic Farming Action Plan 2013.

Our Food & Drink Group is headed by two partners, Isabel Foley and Deborah Spence.


Our specialist Food & Drink Group regularly draws on and harnesses the skills and expertise of other groups within the firm, including: Life Sciences, Product Liability and Safety, Environment, Planning and Climate Change, EU & Competition law, Litigation and Dispute Resolution and, of course, Corporate and Commercial. This enables us to provide a seamless and comprehensive service to clients across the whole spectrum of food and drink related matters.

Life Sciences

Our Life Sciences Group advises on specialist life sciences matters including the contained use, experimental release, marketing and labelling of genetically modified organisms and derivative products. The group also regularly advises clients on large scale local and international contracts, licensing of intellectual property in feed products, grain drying and supply agreements, franchising arrangements, sponsorships and endorsements.

Product Liability and Product Safety

Our Product Liability and Product Safety Group provides advice on a wide range of product liability, product safety, contractual and insurance issues to companies and organisations across all sectors including the food, drink, agribusiness, pharmaceutical, tobacco, cosmetics and retail sectors.

The group has unrivalled experience in large-scale, multi-party product liability litigation, including the largest such case ever to have come before the Irish Courts. Managing complex product liability litigation requires an overall strategy that is sensitive not only to the litigation environment and objectives but also to the commercial, regulatory and public relations concerns that inevitably accompany such situations.

Environment, Planning & Climate Change

Our Environment, Planning & Climate Change Group advises on all aspects of the regulatory framework within which our clients operate, including planning, IPPC/waste and aquaculture/ foreshore licensing processes from pre-consultation to appeal stages for both private and public projects. The group regularly advises and defends clients on waste related issues, negotiates with the EPA and DAFM on contaminated sites and animal by-products and advises on alternative energy from biomass, the management of sludges, carbon labelling, CHP plants, habitats issues for developers of agricultural land and planning zoning.

EU & Competition

Our highly regarded EU and Competition Group’s core practice areas are European and Irish competition and merger control law, European State Aid law and regulatory law. The Group has acted in a number of ground-breaking cases, such as the first referral of a case from the European Commission to the Irish Competition Authority (Heineken/Scottish & Newcastle) and the first appeal of an Irish Competition Authority decision before the Irish Courts (Kerry Group/Breeo Foods). The Group has also been, and continues to be, involved in the most high-profile competition law cases, including the Competition Authority’s challenge to a Government-backed rationalisation of the beef processing sector (Competition Authority v BIDS) and civil actions for damages resulting from competition law infringements (Mars v BIDS).

Litigation and Dispute Resolution

Our Litigation and Dispute Resolution Group has unrivalled experience in the various forms of alternative dispute resolution. Our track record in handling domestic and international litigation, mediation, arbitration and regulatory investigations is second to none. In addition to helping clients to resolve disputes, we have substantial experience in assisting clients prevent disputes before they occur. Our services range from advising clients prior to the commencement of proceedings by providing strategic, pre-litigation guidance, through to managing large scale and complex litigation, often with a multi-jurisdictional element.

Corporate and Commercial

Our general corporate and commercial experience in Ireland is unsurpassed and our Corporate Group is a dynamic player in Irish business and corporate law and advises on highly complex commercial transactions. The group has been, and continues to be, involved in most large Irish M&A transactions and most of the major floatations of Irish companies. Alongside this, our commercial contracts specialists in the firm advise clients on the strategic planning, public procurement, drafting and negotiation of many key commercial contracts.


Regulatory, Environmental & Litigation

Advising clients on an ongoing basis on obligations arising under the Food Regulation, Food Hygiene Regulations, the Food Information Regulation, legislation governing foods for special groups (FSG Regulation) and the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation.

Managing product withdrawals and consumer recalls in the food, drink and agribusiness sector and associated litigation, including:

  • Advising on the recent horse meat issue.
  • The Irish pork and bacon recall arising from the dioxin scare.
  • The withdrawal from the supply chain and from the retail sector of component ingredients in products on the market.
  • Advising a well-known alcoholic drinks manufacturer on the withdrawal from the market of products due to quality concerns.
  • Advising and representing food, drink and agribusiness clients across a spectrum of regulatory, contractual and liability issues, including the following:
  • The consequences for dairy co-operatives of the abolition in 2015 of the EU Milk Quota regime.
  • The Deep Sea Project and the applications for an aquaculture licence and foreshore licence for the development of an organic salmon farm in Galway Bay.
  • Planning and environmental issues arising in respect of facility expansion plans.
  • The supply and use of unauthorised feed additive.
  • The sale and distribution of sports nutrition products.
  • Advising clients on planning GM trials, deliberate release of genetically modified microorganisms into the environment and related issues.
  • Defence of nuisance proceedings in respect of food manufacturing activities, including in relation to milk, infant milk powder, cheese and soup products.
  • Defence of EPA prosecutions for environmental pollution in the dairy sector.
  • Defence of animal welfare proceedings.
  • Defence of major criminal prosecution and related civil proceedings in respect of international contamination of feed and food chain from Irish produced waste wrongly intermingled in Europe in the feed and food chain.

Corporate and Commercial

  • Advising Glanbia plc on the sale of its Dairy Ingredients Ireland business to a joint venture with its majority shareholder, Glanbia Co-operative Society Limited.
  • Advising Dairygold Co-operative Society Limited on the demerger and spin-off of its property and other non-core interests into Reox Holdings plc.
  • Advising Reox Holdings plc on the sale of its consumer foods division to Kerry Group plc.
  • Advising Greencore Group on the disposal of its malt business.
  • Advising DIAGEO on various corporate matters including the disposal of the GILBEYS wine distribution business and assets to Gleeson Wines & Spirits Limited.
  • Advising Kerry Group on its acquisition of Freshways Limited.
  • Advising Sysco Corporation on its acquisition of Pallas Foods.
  • Advising Valeo Foods on its acquisition of Jacob Fruitfield.
  • Advising Musgraves on its acquisition of Superquinn.
  • Advising CapVest on the merger of Bachelors and Odlum / Shamrock food companies to form Valeo Foods.
  • Advising on the Fyffes/Total Produce Demerger.
  • Advising COCA-COLA on various commercial agreements and arrangements.

EU and Competition

  • Advising LVA and VFI on EU and competition law implications of proposed lid-on-tax for alcoholic drinks sold in off-trade outlets.
  • Representing the Irish beef industry in proceedings brought by the Competition Authority in the High Court, Supreme Court and European Court concerning industry rationalization.
  • Representing Greencore Group in merger control applications for proposed acquisition of Northern Foods Ltd and acquisition of Uniq plc.
  • Advising various clients on potential implications of proposed Code of Conduct for Grocery Goods Undertakings.
  • Advising Reox Holdings plc on the disposal of Breeo Foods brands to Kerry Group – blocked by the Competition Authority under merger control rules but successfully appealed in the High Court.
  • Advising Moy Park on its acquisition of O’Kane Poultry.
  • Advising CapVest on the combination of Bachelors and Odlum/Shamrock food companies to form Valeo Foods.
  • Advising various clients in the food sector on competition law compliance, including the development of webinar-based training.