Food and drink manufacturers are risking prosecution by failing to keep up with changes to environmental regulations, according to government research.

Four changes relevant to food and drink manufacturers have been introduced in the past year. However, research commissioned by the government website showed fewer than a third (31%) of SMEs could name one piece of environmental legislation without being prompted.

The rate of change for businesses has been rapid in recent months.

Since last October businesses have been required to pre-treat all solid waste before it goes to landfill and liquid waste is now banned. Companies must also now recover or recycle packaging, either by joining a scheme or taking responsibility to recover it.

Martin Brocklehurst, head of environment protection at the Environment Agency, said that despite publicity about the changes, many manufacturers were not keeping abreast of changes rather than deliberate not complying. "For most small companies it is lack of awareness," he said.

Just under £100,000 in fines was meted out to food and drink businesses breaking the law in 2006 before the latest round of legislation, he added.