Planning for Brexit Food Labelling Changes
In February the UK government published guidance on food labelling changes that will be needed if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. The uncertainty around the UK exit means it is too early to start making these changes to existing labels, however putting a plan in place is a sensible step to take now.
You may need to act quickly if we do leave without a deal. How quickly will depend upon the goodwill of the EU member states, and the decisions they make regarding any transition arrangements for products from the UK. We have been assured that the UK government is adopting a pragmatic approach and will allow time for changes to be made to products sold in the UK, but, as yet, we have no similar assurance from the EU. The priority for action is therefore likely to be products exported from the UK to the EU, and the first steps in the plan will include identifying the products affected and making sure you have the resources to ensure the right changes are made.
Primary Ingredient Labelling
The advice issued by government for Brexit includes a brief mention of the label changes that may be required by the implementation of the primary ingredient origin requirement (Regulation 2018/775 implementing Article 26.3 of the Food Information to Consumers Regulation), which applies across the EU from 1st April 2020. It is important to note that this change will apply in the UK as the UK will adopt all EU food law into UK law when we leave.
Preparing for primary ingredient labelling also requires an initial review of existing labelling to understand which labels require a change to origin labelling. It is then important to understand that there are options available. Options include:
- A statement that the (named) primary ingredients are not from the indicated place of origin
- A statement specifying where the primary ingredients come from (rules apply regarding the level of precision – EU/non-EU/specific country or countries/sea or freshwater area/region or geographical area)
- Removal of the indication of origin of the food
Therefore planning for this new requirement should include a decision on how you will respond if you do find that this new requirement applies. It is not automatic that further information must be added to labels.
Planning for the Changes
Most food businesses will want to incorporate changes required by Brexit at the same time as any label revision to meet primary ingredient requirements. Making one change to labels to cover all new requirements will be the preferred option. It must be recognised though that the two requirements may affect different labels, some will be influenced by Brexit, some by primary ingredients, and some by both. However, as the chances of a delay to Brexit or the ‘no-deal’ decision increase, the uncertainty reduces the possibility of coordinating both changes. The primary ingredient requirement will apply with the existing April 2020 deadline whatever happens with Brexit. Therefore planning for these changes must, unfortunately, include the possibility of a two step revision to some labels.