The way food and drink producers, manufacturers, retailers and suppliers label food is changing as of January 1 2021, and you need to be ready.
When the UK exited the European Union on 31 January 2020, the transition period was set in motion which ends on 31 December this year. Once the transition period has ended, rules on food and drink are labelled will change.
The legal requirements on packaging and labelling food are set out in the Food Information and Regulations 2014 in England, which enables local authorities to enforce the European Food Information to Consumers (FIC) Regulation 1169/2011.
With Britain’s exit from the European Union, they can no longer call themselves members of the EU which means all the food and drink labelled with EU certification and origin stamps has to change.
At Roythornes Solicitors, we have over 60 years of experience helping clients with their food and drink-related legal issues. The following are the major food and drink labelling changes you need to be aware of before they become a legal requirement at the end of 2020.
How will labelling for exports to the EU change?
Every industry is different, so it’s important that you check with your EU importer to find out how the labelling requirements will affect your products.
One thing to note is that any food and drink you put on the EU market before 1 Jan 2021 doesn’t need to have any labelling changes, because it’s already in the system. The following changes only apply to any products placed on the EU market after that date.
Instead of following the UK’s interpretation of the EU legislation, products placed on the market in the EU will have to follow their legislation to a tee.
This means that:
- Pre-packaged food must have an EU or NI address for the Food Business Operator, or the address of the EU or NI importer on the packaging or food label
- Organic food that only needed GB certification now needs to have a valid certificate of inspection using the EU’s Trade TRACES NT system (this includes exports to NI)
- You can no longer use the EU emblem on goods produced in Great Britain unless the EU has authorised you to do so
- Food from GB must also drop any ‘Origin EU’ labels after 1 Jan 2021
Those are the basics of the changes made to labelling for products outside the EU and more details can be found on each of these on gov.uk.
What about food and drink sold in Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
The end of the Brexit transition period doesn’t only affect the labelling of food and drink products we export to the EU, it also spells drastic changes for the GB market.
Great Britain hasn’t fully decided on all the changes it will roll out after the transition period, and all current guidance is subject to change. Thankfully, the deadline on when you have to stop using your current labelling when selling food and drink in the UK is less tight.
The UK government understands businesses need time to adapt to labelling changes and use up their current stock of labels and packaging, so they have set a deadline of 30 September 2022 before the following changes need to be made for GB.
From 1 October 2022 all food and drink sold in GB:
- Must include a UK address for the Food Business Operator. If the FBO is not in the UK, the importer’s address must be included
- Organic products can continue to use UK-approved control bodies, but they must change their statement of agriculture to either ‘UK Agriculture’ or ‘non-UK Agriculture’ unless it’s from both in which case you can use ‘UK and non-UK Agriculture’
- If you use the EU organic logo for exports, you need to include both the GB statement of agriculture and the EU statement of agriculture.
- Any food sold in GB labelled as ‘origin EU’ must remove it before the deadline.
- Minced meat, beef and veal and fruit and vegetables labelled as ‘EU’ or ‘Non-EU’ must be replaced with ‘non-UK’ or ‘UK and non-UK’ if the label doesn’t list the country of origin.
- Eggs that don’t meet the EU egg marketing and trade regulations should change from ‘non-EC standard’ to ‘non-UK standard’
As we said at the start of this section, these are the rules we’re currently aware of, but there could be more changes made before the 30 September 2022 deadline.
Food and drink sold in Northern Ireland can still use some of the EU labellings that GB can’t due to its specialist status, and it doesn’t have to adhere to the rules listed above. However, NI does have its own set of rules which come into effect on 1 Jan 2021.
The labelling rules for Northern Ireland include:
- Pre-packaged food must have NI or EU FBO address or the address of the importer
- Label country of origin as ‘UK(NI) or ‘United Kingdom (Northern Ireland)’
- If it doesn’t list the country of origin, all minced meat, olive oil, and fruit and veg must refer to ‘EU’ and ‘non-EU’
Are health and identification marks and Geographical Indication logos changing?
The short answer is, yes.
From 1 January 2021, Products of Animal Origin (POAO) such as meat, egg products, fish, cheese and milk, produced in GB and exported to the EU or NI markets will need to be re-labelled with new health and identification marks.
The exact size and dimension requirements of the new marks can be found on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website.
For goods marketed in GB itself, the health and identification marks won’t have to be changed until 30 September 2022.
New geographical indication (GI) schemes have been set up by the UK using the following designations:
- Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)
- Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)
- Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG)
As of 1 January 2021, any new product applications will need to be made to either the UK scheme to protect the name in the UK, or the EU scheme for NI and the EU.
Products for sale in GB actually have a transition period that lasts until 1 January 2024, giving you ample time to check the new legislation for yourself.
Still not sure where you stand? Get expert advice on food and drink law
In these uncertain times, and with legislation on the labelling of packages still open to change, you need someone who knows the law in your corner.
If you need advice on food safety regulations, get in touch with our specialist food and drink solicitors today. We can help you put all the necessary measures in place to make your business compliant with post-Brexit regulations, and any other legislation that pertains to the food and drink industry.
Roythornes is a member of the Fresh Produce Consortium, the trade association for the fresh produce and floral sector in the UK. Membership covers every area of the industry spectrum including wholesalers, importers, packers, processors, food service, and retailers freight handlers.