Brexit transition period

We left the EU on 31st January 2020. We are now in the transition period, which ends on 31st December 2020. This means we have until 31st December to make the changes needed. We just need to know what changes we need to make!

In this article, we’re going to look into what labelling changes you need to make during this transition period, in order to be ready for 1st January 2021 (or not – as you’ll see).

UK Government have provided guidance:

Prepare your food and drink business for 1 January 2021

Before we get into the detail…

It’s important to recognise before we get into the details of what needs to change, that there are differences in the timescales allowed for the changes, depending on where the product will be sold.

So, let’s look at that first.

Product exported and sold in the EU

Must meet the requirements come 1st Jan 2021 – unless we are given a grace period, where we need one. And, at the moment we don’t know if we’ll be granted one.

One other important point; is that if your product is either organic or of animal origin (and therefore requires a health or identification mark) you must continue to use the current labelling until 31st Dec 2020. If you switch too early, in theory your product could be illegal.

Products sold in the UK

We have a grace period for any product sold in the UK until 30th September 2022.

Definitions

We use the term ‘on the market’ during this article. And this is a really important term, that we must be clear about.

For product to comply with the placed ‘on the market’ definition, it must:

  • be supplied into the EU or NI before 1st Jan 2021
  • be physical moved into the EU or NI before 1st Jan 2021

If challenged, you’ll need to have proof that the product was placed on the market before 1st Jan 2021, the UK Government definition document gives details of what proof is acceptable.

Any product that hits the EU or NI market after 1st Jan 2021 will be illegal and will need relabelling. Therefore, without a grace period from the EU, imports into the EU and NI are at risk of being rejected at the border.

Labelling changes

How we label the product is changing and you need to make sure that your retail packaging is compliant.

There are changes are:

Country of origin

From 1st Jan 2021 product put on the market (see definitions) cannot be labelled as origin EU, with the exception of Northern Ireland.

Where the product is made in NI then, it must also state ‘UK(NI)’ or ‘United Kingdom (Northern Ireland)’. This is because of the NI protocol.

Food business operator address

All product placed on the EU market from 1st Jan 2021 must have an EU or NI contact address for the manufacturer. If the manufacturer is not based in the EU or NI, the product must have an EU or NI address for the importer.

This means, you cannot put a UK contact address (except NI) on any product sold in the EU. The address has to be a postal address, an email address or phone number is not acceptable.

EU emblem

EU Elbem for Food LabellingAny product produced in the UK from 1st Jan 2021 must not have the EU emblem on it. Therefore, if you’re running a new print run of packaging, this needs removing.

EU health and identification marks

This applies to all products of animal origin (POAO), which need a health or identification mark.

For product sold in the UK or in the EU these are changing. The current health and identification marks must be used until 31st Dec 2020 and the new ones must be used from 1st Jan 2021. (However, remember for product sold in the UK you have a grace period until 30th Sept 2022).

UK Government have provided details of how the logo is changing: Guidance on health and identification marks that applies from 1 January 2021.

There are no rules about the size of the identification mark on the pack, but a health mark has to be 6.5cm x 4.5cm.

The question then comes down to whether you put a health mark or identification mark on your product. Both look the same, but there is a distinct difference between them:

  • Health mark is only used for raw carcasses from the slaughterhouse.
  • An identification mark is put on product that has been processed from raw.

FYI – an identification mark is not needed for product which is:

  • Being used as an ingredient,
  • and is not received raw.

For example:

  • Ice cream made from raw milk would need an identification mark.
  • Ice cream made from pasteurised milk would need not need an identification mark.

 

EU organic logoThe EU organic logo obviously belongs to the EU, and to be able to use it, you have to be adhering to the EU Organic Regulation. From 1st January 2021 you can only use the EU organic logo if your UK Organic Certification Scheme is authorised to use the logo.

So, the question is: Is your organic certification scheme authorised to use the EU Organic logo after 1st January?  And the answer is – we don’t know.

This is the situation…

The organic certification schemes have applied for authorisation but haven’t been given a decision yet. The decision is based on what’s called ‘equivalence’.  This means that the EU has to decide if each of the UK organic schemes Standards are equivalent to their Standards, and therefore they find them acceptable.

It’s possible that we won’t get a decision on this until the trade talks have concluded, one way or another. If this is the case, it’s going to be probably December before we find out if we can use the EU Organic logo or not.

So, what does that mean?

Well, basically, if you use the EU Organic logo on your packaging and it’s sold in the UK and not exported to the EU, you must remove the logo, as it will be illegal from 1st Jan 2021.

If you use the EU Organic logo on your packaging and it’s sold in the EU, then legally you must have it on the packaging until 31st Dec 2020, and it will be illegal to use it from 1st Jan 2021. Which leaves you in a bit of a predicament.

So, what are the options?

If your product has a long shelf life, then as long as it’s ‘on the market’ before 31st Dec, then it’s acceptable (see the definitions below for details about what ‘on the market’ means).  However, you can’t put product on the market using the EU Organic logo after that date, if we haven’t got authorisation.

If you produce short shelf life product, then it basically means you’ll need to stop production in time, so that your product doesn’t go on the EU market from 1st Jan 2021. Because, you won’t be able to supply the EU with organic product without the EU Organic logo, as this is illegal. Which means, you won’t be able to use your packaging.

If we do get the authorisation to use the EU Organic logo, then the packaging will most likely need to change anyway, due to the other points we’ll talk about here, and also it’s expected that the identification number that your organic certification scheme uses will probably need to change.

This means, that you won’t be able to update your packaging until authorisation is granted. Or if you do, you’re at risk of it being incorrect – because there may be changes needed that we’re not aware of right now.

Not what you want to hear…

We appreciate this isn’t good news. However, there’s not much else we can do right now. And, it’s imagined that the EU will give us a grace period when everything is finally agreed. We’ll just have to wait and see.

There are 88 UK registered products with protected food names, under the EU GI scheme. From 1st Jan 2021 the UK will set up its own GI scheme.

When the new UK scheme is set up, a new UK GI logo will be created and this must be used in future.

For any products that are currently registered, or are registered under the EU scheme before 1st Jan 2021, you will have until 1st Jan 2024 to change from the EU GI logo to the new UK GI logo.

For all products registered, to the new scheme from 1st Jan 2021, the new UK GI logo must be used.

For product sold in NI the EU GI logo must be used and it’s optional to also display the UK GI logo.


This is a complicated and ever-evolving subject, so if you have any information you think your fellow techie’s will find useful – please do share it. Or if you need help, please ask your questions in the comments below.

Have your say…

18 thoughts on “Changes you need to make to your labelling by 1st Jan 2021

  1. The identification mark is applied to POAO by food businesses to show it has been produced in an establishment approved in accordance with food safety and hygiene regulations, and is typically applied to wrapping, packaging, or labelling which contains, or is attached to, the POAO.

    Your definition is misleading

    1. Hi Geoff
      Thanks for your comment and I appreciate your challenge. Can you explain why you think our definition is misleading please? I agree with the defintion that you’ve provided, but on it’s own it doesn’t say what product is applies to.
      Thanks,
      Kassy

  2. Hi Kassy

    Firstly what an excellent article, thank you!

    Just a little confused over the operators business address, we do not export very much into the EU, I am right in understanding from the article that we can no longer put our UK address on the packaging for any exports to the EU, if not how do we get around this as we do not use an importer etc.

    Also just to confirm for any products that are not made of any POAO, (therefore the health mark is not required) is there really no change to the labelling or does the rule regarding operators business address still stands.

    I would be grateful for any further information on this

    Kind regards

    Martyn

    1. Hi Gina
      It depends.
      The example that I discussed with the FSA was around ice-cream (I appreciate that’s not chicken, but bear with me). Where an ice-cream is made from raw milk and the raw milk is the predominant part (which it is in ice-cream) then it requires a identification mark. Where the ice-cream is made from pasteurised milk, it doesn’t need an identification mark.
      So the question is – how much of the product is chicken and is it cooked from raw? My thought process would be that a ready meal for example, wouldn’t require an identification mark. But I’m going to check!
      Kassy

      1. Thank you as I had the same question and haven’t had a definitive answer yet. We use cooked and frozen meats and fish which are used as a composite in a mixture of veg and rice. Would be great if you can clarify as I was under the same impression as Gina.

  3. Are you able to clarify the FBO address and NI please?
    You have said if a product is made and sold in NI/EU it must have an NI/EU address or the importer’s address – if made in mainland UK and exported to NI/EU.

    So, if a product is produced and sold in mainland UK then this needs only requires a mainland UK address?
    However, if it is also sold in NI it would need the NI importer’s address too?

    1. Hi Steve

      If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re asking if you would need both a UK address and a NI address on a product, that was to be sold in both places? If that’s the case – then yes. The same packaging artwork would need to comply with both UK law and EU law.

      Kassy

  4. I am lobbying for clarity on the UK labelling requirements of Organic products, which at present are unclear, so that we can at least market organic products in the UK from 01.01.2021. Defra have said that authorities will be asked to use a ‘light touch’ approach to enforcement of organic labelling requirements however this does not prevent the EU from enforcing any leaf logo mis-use. Can anyone add any clarity on the issue of Organic?

    I have been led to believe by DEFRA that the FBO address must be an actual operating site in the EU i.e. distributing, manufacturing, packing and at present an office address set up for this purpose is not sufficient. Perhaps you could clarify what is acceptable as an EU FBO address.

    It is my understanding that the UK protected names logos are now available to download:

    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/protecting-food-and-drink-names-from-1-january-2021#protection-of-uk-gis-in-the-eu

    1. Really struggling to understand this. We are a UK business that import pre packaged products into the UK with our UK address on the products.

      We then sell some of these products into N/I to several different customers. We do not have an EU or NI related business in operation.

      So what are my options? I am not able to sell these products into N/I anymore with our UK address on but as I sell the same products to several different customers I do not have any one N/I address I could put on there.

      Apparently my only option is when having this product manufactured I have to ask the supplier to print as many variations of the label address as I have customers, each having their own address on there?

      1. Hi Steve
        I’ll try and explain….
        To begin with you don’t have to have the product made there, so don’t worry about that. You’ve said that you sell the product to several different customers in NI – is this product their own label or yours? If you’re making the product for them under their own label, it’s their responsibility to have an address on the pack, so they can use their own address in NI. If however, you’re supplying your own brand to them, then it’s your responsibility. This then leaves you with one option, which is to have the product imported into NI using an importer which is based there and you then put their address on the label.
        Does that make sense?
        Kassy

        1. Hi Kassy,

          Yes makes sense and is pretty much how I thought I understood it. The products we sell in N/I are not customers own label, they are our brands. So if we do not want to use an importer, which we do not our only other option would be to open a new limited company in N/I with an N/I address on our product labels. That would potentially then leave us with the reverse issue of selling the product with an N/I address in GB, which would mean having to have two labels and stockholdings for each sku of exactly the same product, one with a UK address one with an N/I address ?

          Madness?

          1. That would be the situation though for any other export product though. Seems weird I think because it’s NI….

  5. HI Kassy
    Really helpful article, thanks.
    I have product that is labelled as being packed in Scotland using Non-EU ***** product, do I have to now state the actual COO on the label or is this still legal as it is Non-EU product? is this even affected by the changes?

    Thanks
    Dianne

  6. Hi Dainne
    I’m not sure I totally understand your question. Are you asking if you have to specify where the ingredients come from? Non-EU is fine…
    Kassy

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