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Food businesses and Brexit : addresses for exports to the EU

View profile for Julie Robinson
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The Q & A below is about addresses on pre-packed foods exported into the EU.

It is aimed at Food Business Operators (FBOs) in Great Britain and covers the position if we leave the EU:-

  1. without a withdrawal agreement in place; or
  2. having left with a deal, without a free trade agreement in place at the end of any transition period.

Leaving without a withdrawal agreement in place is a less likely scenario following the Conservative Party victory in the general election, although getting the necessary legislation in place by 31 January will, time-wise, be a challenge. The Q & A also covers the likely position if a future trade agreement with the EU falls short of the UK being a member of the single market (e.g. as a member of the European Free Trade Association).

The current withdrawal deal envisages a transition period lasting until 31 December 2020; this can be extended by up to two years by agreement, with a decision having to be taken by 1 July 2020.  During the transition period, and any extension, the UK will continue to operate for trading purposes as if it were a member state.

Q 1: Which FBO’s name and address must be on pre-packed food sold in the EU?

If the food operator under whose name the product is marketed is not established in the EU, then the importer of the food product is the FBO that needs to be named[1]. So, pre-Brexit, you were a business ‘established’ in the EU. After Brexit that will not be the case unless you set up there; instead, the name of an EU-based importer will need to be on the packaging. Under EU food law, it is this importer who is responsible for the correct labelling of the product.

Q2: Can the EU FBO’s address be the address of one of our distributor’s premises?

If your business is not formally established in the EU, the address provided must be the address of the importer. (It is worth bearing a key principle in mind; under EU food law the importer i.e. the party bringing the product into the EU, is primarily responsible for the food information on pre-packed food. Other operators in the supply chain may, understandably, not want to be named as the importer without some indemnities in place.)

Q3: Can the FBO’s address be a PO Box?

FBOs must have an address where they can be reached by mail. That would include a PO Box. However, having a PO Box in the EU does not necessarily mean that a UK business is formally established there.

Q4: Does the address have to be an integral part of my packaging or can I over-sticker?

In relation to prepacked food, the EU food regulation refers to mandatory information appearing “directly on the package or on a label” attached to it[2]. Labels must not be easily removable in a way that jeopardises the availability of the information to the consumer.

Using over-stickers will be acceptable as long as they cannot be peeled off easily.

Q5: If my products arrive with my EU stockist just ahead of exit day or the end of the transition period, will my current labels be sufficient?

Stocks of food products already held in the EU on exit day or at the end of the transition period will not need to be re-labelled. Under EU law products must comply with EU food labelling law at the point they are placed on the market. Placing on the market includes “the holding of food for the purpose of sale”[3]

We have a Food and Drink team who are able to advise businesses on their contractual arrangements and on how to set up abroad. For further information on food labelling, please contact Julie Robinson at julierobinson@roythornes.co.uk.

 

[1] See Article 8(1) and 9(1)(h) of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011.

[2] See Article 8(7) of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011.

[3] See Article 3(8) of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002.

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