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:
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.
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.
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
- Food business operator (FBO) address
- Use of the EU emblem
- Use of the EU health and identification marks
- Use of the EU organic logo
- Use of the geographical indication (GI) logo
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.
Any 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.
- 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 logo
The 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.
Geographical indication (GI) logo
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.
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