Food labelling and Brexit: Is your food business ready for the transition?

Food producers, manufacturers and retailers are being warned to prepare for new requirements for food labelling coming into force on 1 January 2021. While the Government has extended the deadline past January 2021 in some cases, for food and beverage exporters the clock is still ticking, warns legal expert, Amy Peacey.

Responding to industry concerns over the scramble to comply with the new rules in time to meet the transition deadline on 1 January, the UK government recently revised its guidance for the labelling of food produced and sold in Great Britain, as well as for food imported from the EU.

The new guidance, which extends the original 1 January deadline for the labelling changes to 30 September 2022 comes as welcome news for any food business producing and selling in Great Britain.

Existing “origin EU” wording on labels can continue to be used until September 2022. Similarly, labels on food imported from the EU can continue to include an EU, rather than a UK, address, for the duration of this extended grace period.

However, for food and beverage exporters the clock is still ticking, because the EU has not updated its guidance and, consequently, new labelling rules will apply to food exported from Great Britain from 1 January 2021. From this date, exporters will need to have in place new packaging compliant with EU regulations in order to sell their goods legally to customers in the EU.

“There is a limited exception for food products placed on the market before January 2021 which can continue to be sold, distributed or transferred in the EU without labelling changes until stocks are exhausted.”

So what does this mean for businesses intending to export food or beverages from Great Britain to the EU?

From 1 January 2021 food exported to the EU must follow these requirements:

  • Food and drink products may not use any EU emblems or markings on their labels;
  • UK food must not be labelled as origin EU from 1 January 2021; and
  • The address of an EU importer or food business operator will be required on labels of pre-packaged food
In addition, until such time as the EU approves the UK’s organic food regulatory regime, producers of organic food products face export restrictions and other labelling requirements.

If the UK does not achieve recognition equivalency from the EU, exporters of organic food will not be able to export organic food or feed to the EU from 1 January 2021.

“This transition period is a challenging time for food manufacturers who need to be compliant with new labelling rules and alert to the different requirements depending on where their goods are to be sold.”

If you are a food manufacturer and are unsure of what is required, I recommend looking at the Government website for guidance or talking to a specialist lawyer who can help.

Amy Peacey helps businesses and individuals document their contract relationships with third parties ensuring their commercial contracts are legally sound and comply with all applicable laws. Specialising in advising businesses on all commercial contract matters, she acts for clients of all sizes, from family run businesses to large well-known organisations across a wide range of sectors.

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