Brexit: Food safety and labelling FAQ
As of 1 January 2021, the UK will be a third country operating outside of the EU’s Custom Union and Single Market. This means any business that moves goods from, to or through the UK will be subject to a range of new customs formalities, SPS checks and other regulatory requirements, that do not apply in any form today to such trade.
Food placed on the EU market must be in compliance with the EU food legislation set down to protect consumers. Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 on the Provision of Food Information to the Consumer (FIC) sets out specific requirements, particularly concerning food labelling.
The following questions highlight some of the necessary labelling changes that will be required after the 1 January 2021. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) is the government agency which carries out the implementation and monitoring of the FIC in Ireland. Further information can be found on their dedicated Brexit page.
As of 1 January 2021, EU food law no longer applies to the UK. Companies should be fully aware of how third country food products are treated under EU law, see here. No flexibility will be afforded on the monitoring and enforcement of EU rules on UK food imports once they become a third country. This is to ensure risk to the consumer is avoided at all cost.
In some instances, EU food law may require changes of the labelling of food compared to the labelling practice of food originating from the UK currently. Business should ensure they are prepared for the following:
- Mandatory origin labelling of a food product, where applicable.
- Mandatory labelling of the name or business name and address of the EU importer of food from the UK.
- Mandatory health or identification marks according to Article 5 of Regulation (EC) No 853/2004. As of the end of the transition period, the health mark or the identification mark is no longer to include the "EC" abbreviation, but is to include the name of the country (in full or with the ISO two-letter code) where the establishment is located and the approval number of this establishment
- Other mandatory information, such as relating to farming methods and marketing standards: this includes packs of imported eggs, eggs for hatching, packs containing day old chicks, and wine.
Yes. EU regulation in this area necessitates that the business as name and address on a product must be an EU-based address.
This name and address must be either:
- the operator in the EU under whose name or business name the food is marketed or
- if that operator is not established in the EU, the name and address of the importer into the EU market must be indicated on the label.
Yes. For the purposes of food labelling, a food business operator established in Northern Ireland will continue to be accepted as an EU address.
Yes. You can have two addresses on your product packaging once one of the addresses is EU-based.
No. A PO box is usually not acceptable under the FIC and this is unlikely to change - it must be an established EU address.
For pre-packaged goods the name and address must be on the final products for importation.
As of 1 January 2021, the origin of goods traded will have to be indicated for them to be entitled to EU preferential trade arrangements with an EU FTA partner. After this date, UK inputs (materials or processing operations) are considered as ‘non-originating’ under a preferential trade arrangement, for the determination of the preferential origin of goods incorporating those inputs and will be subject to the EU’s non-preferential rules of origin i.e., the Customs legislation. For products that require origin labelling e.g., honey, if your label contains EU and UK honey then the label will need to reflect this and list ‘blend of EU and non-EU honeys’. To note, the Non-EU country must be approved to export a specific category of food of animal origin and must be on the list of approved Non-EU countries for that specific category of food, see here.
This is dependent on the outcome of the ongoing EU-UK negotiations. However, as already noted, from the 1 January 2021, the UK will be a third country operating outside of the EU’s Custom Union and Single Market. Companies must prepare for the range of new customs formalities, SPS checks and other regulatory requirements that will apply regardless of whether there is an EU-UK trade deal or not.
As of 1 January 2021, UK ingredients being imported into the EU must adhere fully to the EU import procedures. For further information regarding the import of products of animal origin visit the DAFM website, see here. For food of non-animal origin visit the FSAI website, see here.
The Withdrawal Agreement provides that goods placed on the market in the EU or the UK before the end of the transition period may continue to freely circulate in and between these two markets, until they reach their end-users, without any need for product modifications or re-labelling. However, live animals and animal products that move between the Union market and the UK market will, as from the end of the transition period, be subject to import rules and sanitary controls at the border, regardless of whether they were placed on the market before the end of the transition period.
Environmental health inspectors go into shops and carry out spot inspections. The ethos is to do labelling checks from point of manufacture right through to point of retail. Many inspections are carried out on foot of complaints from the public and information sharing with other member states.
The FSAI carries out enforcement that is risk based and proportionate. This means that in general the food or activity that poses the highest risk receives the highest levels of controls. FSAI enforcement is also carried out in a manner that is fair and accountable. For more information, view the FSAI’s food law enforcement policy.
The European Commission, under DG SANTE, also has a group of Ireland-based auditors which go out on missions and do spot checks on particular products. The Commission then publishes those reports, so FSAI has to ensure it is adhering to EU law.
EU legislation on the provision of food information to the consumer specifies that the food business operator responsible for food information is the operator under whose name or business name the food is marketed or, if that operator is not established in the EU, the importer into the EU market.