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Brexit food labelling issues for producers, distributors and retailers

View profile for Sophia Bell
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Brexit food labelling issues for producers, distributors and retailers

With the end of the transition period on 31st December 2020 and Boris’ efforts to secure a trade deal with the EU combined with truckers having their lunch pack-ups confiscated as they enter the Netherlands, Brexit is back into the spotlight, sandwiched between Covid-19 related headlines. 

With the trade deal having come so late and so close to the end of the transition period, many people are still struggling to catch up with what it means in practice. The changes are wide ranging across many sectors, so in this blog we are just going to touch on labelling issues for food production, distribution and retail.

Food Labelling

If you are a Food Business Operator (FBO), government guidance issued in October 2020 stated that the required changes to the labels of pre-packaged food products relate to the following:

  • Address of the FBO
  • Organic Logo
  • Country of Origin
  • Geographical Indication (GI) logo
  • Health and Identification marks

Address of FBO

EU regulations require the name and address of the FBO to be included on the labels and commercial delivery documents of pre-packed food.  The definition of FBO makes a distinction between operators who are established inside or outside of the Union. In the event that the FBO is outside the EU, the address of the importer into the EU market should be stated.

As the UK is no longer a part of the EU, all pre-packed foods placed on the market in the UK must include a UK address for the FBO, regardless of whether the products were produced in the UK or not. If the FBO is not registered in the UK, the address must be of the UK importer of the products. The vice versa scenario applies in respect of products produced in the UK and sold within EU or Northern Ireland (NI). The product will need to have an address within the EU or NI which, if the FBO is registered in the UK, will be the importer of the products into the Union market.

Organic Food

As for organic food, it was initially stated that the EU organic logo could not be used on any UK organic food exported to the EU after Brexit unless the control body is authorised by the EU to certify UK products, or if the UK and the EU recognise each other’s standards. The good news is that following the agreement of the trade deal, it has been confirmed that the EU has agreed to recognise the UK as equivalent for organics until 31st December 2023. This gives welcomed certainty to the lucrative organic market which would otherwise have seen restricted access to the EU.

Other Considerations

Regardless of Brexit, food packaging and labelling continues to have a large number of requirements that can vary from one product to another and from one producer to another. These requirements include the suitability of any packaging for ‘food contact’; the country of origin for certain products (such as most meats, fish, honey and fruit and vegetables which, until 30 September 2022, can still say ‘origin UK’ if from and sold in Great Britain); and specific requirements in relation to individual product types (e.g. bread and flour, jams and preserves, fish, cocoa and chocolate products).

With changes coming in to force in October 2021 in relation to ingredient lists and the identification of allergens, food labelling is certainly an area that is increasingly challenging for new entrants across all elements of the food and drink industry and an area of focus that requires attention in this time of change.

If you import or export pre-packaged food products to or from the EU or NI or are involved in the production or packaging of such foods and have not considered these changes, please contact our Corporate and Commercial team who are on hand to guide you through the process.

Our articles are intended for general information purposes only and are not a substitute for professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. We are always very happy to discuss any plans, issues or concerns you may have and to clarify how we might be able to help. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.