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Preparing your business for EU Exit - Traceability and Labelling

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 and is in the transition period until 31 December 2020. This guide provides advice on traceability and labelling

Last updated: Monday 7 September 2020

Section 2 - Traceability and Labelling

2.01 What changes will be needed to the labelling of products intended for the UK market to reflect that the UK is no longer a member of the EU?

The current EU labelling Regulations will be rolled over into national legislation. These regulations allow ‘EU’ to be used as a country of origin, but from the end of the transition period when the UK is no longer a member of the EU any origin information will need to state ‘UK’. Examples of where this could apply are:

  1. Origin labelling.Where origin labelling of a food or its ingredients are given voluntarily or as a legal requirement the use of the term ‘EU’ will no longer be correct for food or ingredients from the UK. Labelling changes will be required to reflect this. 
  2. Food business addresses.Rolled over legislation will require all pre-packed food to be labelled with the name and a UK address of the business operator under whose name the food is marketed as this is the business operator responsible for the product regardless of the actual producer.  

The business operator under whose name the food is marketed could be the producer for a branded product or a retailer in the case of a retailers own label product even though it is produced by a another business. 

This must be a UK address, or, if that operator is not established in the UK, the importer of the product into the UK.  An EU address alone would no longer be valid for the UK market. 

More detail can be found in the government guidance on ‘Food labelling and packaging 

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.02 What changes will be needed to the labelling of products intended for sale within the EU and Northern Ireland to reflect that the UK is no longer a member of the EU?

As the EU regulations require the name and EU address of the responsible food business operator within the EU, a UK address alone would no longer be valid for the EU market and an address within the remaining EU member states will be required following EU exit. 

All pre-packed food intended for sale in the EU will need to be labelled with the name and a EU address of the business operator under whose name the food is marketed, as this is the business operator responsible for the product regardless of the actual producer.  

The business operator under whose name the food is marketed could be the producer for a branded product or a retailer in the case of a retailers own label product even though it is produced by a another business. 

This must be the EU address of the producer or retailer or, if that operator is not established in the EU, the importer of the product into the EU.  

More detail can be found in the government guidance Food and drink labelling changes from 1 January 2021’ 

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.03 Can a PO Box be used as a food business address in the UK?

The address provided on the label must allow the consumer to contact the food business operator quickly and easily regarding any issue arising from their products and to allow enforcement notices to be served if necessary. If PO boxes are used on the label they must be suitable for this purpose and they do not replace the need for the business concerned to be established with a physical presence. Examples of acceptable FBO address include the address of a unit of an FBO that is undertaking production, distribution or the processing of food.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.04 Is there a transition period to prepare for any changes?

A transition period of 21 months has been agreed for food bearing an EU address to be placed on the UK market. This will end on 31 December 2020. Product already on the UK market can continue to be circulated until it is sold to the final consumer.

Article 41 of the withdrawal agreement allows for the continued circulation of goods placed on the market in the Union or the United Kingdom before the end of the transition period. Foods placed on the EU market before 23:00hrs GMT can continue to be traded throughout the EU. If you intend to trade goods around the EU you will need to prove they were placed on the EU market before this time.

Goods intended for the NI market will continue to have free circulation within the UK and EU single market.

More detail can be found in the government guidance ‘Food and drink labelling changes from 1 January 2021’.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.05 What changes need to be made to EU health and identification marks after 1 January 2021?

Health and identification (ID) marks are oval stamps that must be applied to certain food products of animal origin (POAO). Also known as hygiene approval numbers, they are required by EU law to be exhibited on POAO to show that the food business responsible has met the relevant EU hygiene requirements and to allow the product to be traced back to the place of production.

Health marks are generally applied by vets to carcases so ID marks are of most relevance to seafood. ID marks however are often unofficially referred to as health marks.

At the end of the transition period, competent authorities and food businesses in England, Wales and Scotland will not be able to apply the current ‘EC’ ID mark to seafood products produced in a UK approved establishment.

A health or ID mark must remove any reference to ‘EC’ or ‘EEC’ and carry either:

  • the official two digit ISO Code ‘GB’

or

The full country name in capital letters ‘UNITED KINGDOM’. The revised form of the health and ID marks must be applied from 1 January 2021. From this date:

  • Products produced in the UK carrying the GB, UK or UNITED KINGDOM identification mark can be placed on the UK market.
  • Products produced in the UK carrying only the GB or UNITED KINGDOM identification mark can be placed on the EU or Northern Ireland market. Products carrying either the UK or the existing EC identification marks will not be eligible for movement to the EU or Northern Ireland.
  • Products produced in the UK carrying the GB, UK or UNITED KINGDOM identification mark can be placed on the non-EU market.

In circumstances where the final destination of the product is unknown, dual health marking is not permitted (see question ‘Can I use dual health marking if I do not know the final destination of my product?’ for more information).

The Food Standards Agency plans to introduce a Statutory Instrument which will allow the continued use of the existing EC health and ID mark for 21 months from 1 January 2021. This concession period will only be available for products placed on the GB market.

Size and Dimension of the Health and Identification Marks

The identification mark must be legible, indelible, and the characters easily decipherable. It must be clearly displayed for the competent authorities and contain the full country name UNITED KINGDOM in capital letters, or GB or UK depending upon which market the product is destined for, followed by the approval number of the establishment. 

There is no minimum or maximum size for the ID mark.

You can find more information and some example ID marks in this FSA guidance

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.06 Can I apply two different health marks if I do not know the final destination of my product?

No- a product cannot display two health or identification marks.

In circumstances where the final destination of the product is unknown, one health mark must be displayed in order to comply with EU legislation.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.07 Will there be any transitional arrangements for EU health and identification marks?

The current EC health and identification marks can be used for the duration of the agreed transition period (until 1 January 2021). 

The revised form of the health and identification (ID) marks (as set out in question  ‘What changes need to be made to EU health and identification marks after 1 January 2021?’) must be used for products that are exported to the EU, Northern Ireland and Non-EU countries, from 1 January 2021.

The Food Standards Agency plans to introduce a Statutory Instrument which will allow the continued use of the existing EC health and ID mark for 21 months from 1 January 2021. This concession period will only be available for products placed on the GB market.

It will not be possible for GB exporters to use the existing UK/EC mark for products destined for the EU or Northern Ireland after the transition period.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.08 I have an establishment which is approved by the Food Standards Agency. Will my approval number change? Do I need to take any further steps?

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is not planning to change approval numbers, but the health and identification marks would need to change at the end of the transition period (see question ‘What changes need to be made to EU health and identification marks after 1 January 2021?’).

If you are a UK approved establishment (including factory, freezer and reefer vessels) in England, Wales or Scotland and currently export seafood into the EU and/or Northern Ireland, if you are considering doing so in the near future or if you supply products to others that export to the EU or Northern Ireland, you need to be listed with the EU.

On 13 July 2020, the Food Standards Agency confirmed that they will automatically put all GB approved establishments forward for listing with the EU. Although this may mean that you do not need to take any action, it is strongly recommended that you check your suppliers are also on the list of establishments approved to export to the EU.

If you do not export seafood to either the EU and/or Northern Ireland, and you do not supply others that use your products in other commodities that are exported to the EU and/or Northern Ireland, then you do not need to be listed with the EU. In this case, you should consider contacting the FSA to ask for your business to be removed from the EU list. If you change your mind after you have indicated that you do not wish to be on the EU list, you must inform the FSA at the earliest opportunity and by December 2020 at the latest.

You must contact eulistings@food.gov.uk  clearly indicating that you do not wish to be listed, your business name, address and approval number. The FSA will then send you an email confirming your removal from the EU list.

If you notify the FSA after the 1 January 2021, you will have to make an application to the European Commission for your establishment to be listed under the Official Controls regulation (EU) 2017/1793. You can make this application via the Animal Plant Health Agency (APHA). The Commission will then review your application, which can take up to 20 working days before making a decision. You will not be able to export seafood to the EU until the EU has come to a decision to accept your application.

For more information on the listing of establishments to export products of animal origin to the EU or Northern Ireland, click here.

There will be different listing requirements for approved establishments in Northern Ireland.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.09 Will the approval process for establishments change at the end of the transition period?

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has clarified that the process for obtaining UK approved establishment status is not changing and it will continue to process approval applications with Food Standards Scotland, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and local authorities.

The only difference is that, should you wish to export seafood into the EU, you will need to contact the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to ask for your establishment to be included in future revisions of the list submitted to the EU for approval (see question ‘I have an establishment which is approved by the Food Standards Agency. Will my approval number change? Do I need to take any further steps?’).

Last Updated; 7 September 2020

2.10 Can I use dual labelling for product intended for sale in the UK and EU?

A product can have a UK address together with an EU address on the label. This would mean that the label is valid for both UK and EU markets.

However, a product cannot display two health marks. In circumstances where the final destination of the product is unknown, one health mark must be displayed in order to comply with EU legislation.

More detail can be found in the government guidance ‘Food and drink labelling changes from 1 January 2021’ and ‘Guidance on health and identification marks that applies from 1 January 2021’  

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.11 Can I use over-stickering on existing label stock to minimise wastage costs?

 Yes, over-stickering is perfectly acceptable, as long as it meets the basic labelling requirements. Food labels must be clear, understandable and not interfere with any other mandatory information.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.12 Can my products destined for the EU Single Market continue to be labelled in English only?

Future requirements do not change at all in this respect from the current situation. Mandatory food information should be provided in “a language easily understood by the consumers of the Member States where the food is marketed” which generally means the official Member State language(s) of its destination country.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020 

2.13 Will Government take a pragmatic approach to enforcement where labels are found to be incorrect?

In many cases transitional periods for changes to food labelling are being written into legislation. However, where it has not been possible to make these legal changes government are working with enforcement officials to agree the requirements for a pragmatic approach to be taken where labels are found to be incorrect. Foods which may be subject to this pragmatic approach are: 

  • Food and ingredients where country of origin labelling is used
  • Organic produce
  • Foods which use of the EU emblem, e.g. fruit and vegetables under the Approved Trader Scheme

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.14 Will current EU Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs) continue to be recognised and protected in the UK?

There are currently 14 EU PGIs for seafood.  New UK GI logos will be available to identify products protected under the UK schemes from 1 January 2021.

Producers of UK food, drink and agricultural GI products registered before 1 January 2021 will have until 1 January 2024 to change packaging to display the new UK GI logos.

Defra has consulted on plans to introduce a UK scheme to give the same level of protection to UK PGIs within the UK. Defra is also proposing to introduce a bespoke enforcement regime. Further information can be found at:

Defra Consultation on establishing UK Geographical Indications (GI) schemes after EU Exit

And:

Defra consultation on improved enforcement of the Protected Food Name Scheme

The results of the respective consultations are available here and here.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.15 Will the current UK Protected Geographical Indications continue to be recognised and protected in the EU?

Council Regulation (EC) No 510/2006 sets out the rules for the designation and protection of PGIs. This will remain in force in the EU; therefore all UK GIs registered under the EU GI schemes by the end of the transition period will continue to receive protection in the EU. Any new UK products seeking EU GI protection will need to secure protection under UK schemes first.

More details can be found in the government advice ‘Protecting food and drink names from 1 January 2021’

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.16 Will PGIs have international protection?

From 1 January 2021, GI protection will continue for products currently named in:

  • EU free trade agreements where the UK has signed a continuity agreement
  • Other EU third country sectoral agreements where the UK has signed a continuity agreement

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.17 Can amendments be made to current PGIs?

It is the Government’s assumption that, given the products are currently protected under EU regulations amendments would continue to receive EU consideration.

More detail can be found in the guidance ‘Protecting food and drink names from 1 January 2021

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.18 Have bilateral discussions taken place with EU member states about pragmatic approaches to enforcement?

No. The UK has no control over enforcement outside the UK. The EU and other non-EU countries may require wholly accurate labelling for access to their markets. In these instances, the UK can only recommend that labels are replaced or over-stickered as required to ensure they are fully accurate. This would include ensuring country of origin labelling, health marks and responsible business addresses were correct. Please note - a business can use the address of the importer of the goods into the EU as an acceptable alternative.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.19 Will EU trade marks continue to be protected in the UK and the EU?

The UK Government will ensure that the property rights in all existing registered EU trade marks will continue to be protected and to be enforceable in the UK by providing an equivalent trade mark within the UK.

The government will work to provide continued protection of trade marks and designs, filed through the Madrid and Hague systems, which respectively designate ‘EU’ origin.

Provision will be made regarding the status of legal disputes involving EU trade marks which are currently sub judice before the UK courts. More information will be provided on this before the UK exits the EU.

Currently businesses in any country can apply for protection in the UK and/or EU through separate approval processes. This will remain unchanged and UK, EU and third country applicants, will continue to be able to apply for protection in the EU through an EU trade mark, as is currently the case. 

More detail can be found in the government advice ‘EU Trade mark protection and comparable UK trade marks from 1 January 2021’.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.20 Will products made before the end of the transition period and stored in warehouses be able to be sold legally after 1st January 2021?

Foods placed on the EU market before 23:00hrs GMT can continue to be circulated throughout the EU. Any ‘supply of a good for distribution, consumption or use on the market in the course of a commercial activity, whether in return for payment or free of charge’ is considered to be placed on the market and can therefore continue to circulate freely. If you intend to circulate goods around the EU you will need to prove they were placed on the EU market before this time.

Goods in storage in NI will continue to have free circulation within the UK and EU single market.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.21 Can I continue to use EU approved nutrition and health claims?

It is proposed that after 1st January 2021 the UK will adopt the existing EU lists of claims, including restrictions and conditions of use. These regulations have also been adopted into CAP codes by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.22 Will I be able to get nutrition and health claims approved in the future?

Scientific advisory functions relating to nutrition and health claims conducted by EFSA will be transferred to the UK Nutrition and Health Claims Committee (UKNHCC), a new committee to be established under the remit of Public Health England (PHE). The UKNHCC will be responsible for the scientific substantiation and providing advice to the four UK administrations on any new nutrition and health claims made within the UK post EU-exit. The committee will be administered and staffed by civil servants from within PHE, but will remain politically and operationally independent. Amendments to the rolled over list will follow the same procedure.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.23 By law, will I still have to provide prescribed traceability information to my customers?

Yes. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act converts “direct EU legislation” which is “operative” immediately before exit day, into domestic law. As a result, the laws surrounding minimum traceability requirements such as Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 (Fisheries Control Regulations) and Regulation (EU) No 1379/2013 (CMO Regulations) will continue to apply. Domestic legislation such as the Fish Labelling Regulations 2013 will also continue to apply.

From 1 January 2021, this means legislation surrounding the provision of lot information (such as lot ID number, catch date, vessel name etc.) must be complied with.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

2.24 Does the UK possess ‘third country’ status?

At the end of the transition period (1 January 2020), the UK will need to be listed by the EU as a third country in order to gain approval to continue exporting seafood to the EU

Defra is taking steps to gain listed third country status for the UK and it is anticipated that third country status will be re-approved at a European Commission meeting in October 2020, in advance of the end of the transition period.

The UK had secured third country status on 14 October 2019 status in preparation for a ‘no deal’ departure on 31 October 2019.

Last Updated: 7 September 2020

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