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Deadline on food labelling looms

Food producers, manufacturers and retailers are being warned to prepare for new requirements for food labelling coming into force on January 1, 2021.

The changes are necessary to reflect the fact that the UK is no longer a member of the EU, says Amy Peacey, a senior associate in the commercial team at national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP.

Responding to industry concerns over the scramble to comply with the new rules in time for transition on January 1, the UK Government recently revised its guidance for the labelling of food produced and sold in Great Britain and food imported from the EU. The new guidance extends the original January 1 deadline for the labelling changes to September 30, 2022. 

This is welcome news for any food business producing and selling in Great Britain because existing “origin EU” wording on labels can continue to be used until September 2022. Similarly, for this extended grace period, labels on food imported from the EU can continue to include an EU, rather than a UK, address.

However, for food and beverage exporters the clock is still ticking. “So far, the EU has not updated its guidance and, consequently, new labelling rules will apply to food exported from Great Britain from January 1, 2021. From this date, exporters will need to have in place new packaging compliant with EU regulations in order to sell their goods legally to customers in the EU," said Amy.

“There is a limited exception for food products placed on the market before January 2021 which can continue to be sold, distributed or transferred in the EU without labelling changes until stocks are exhausted.”

So, what does this mean in practice for any business intending to export food or beverages from Great Britain to the EU?

From January 1, 2021 food exported to the EU must follow these requirements:

In addition, producers of organic food products face export restrictions and other labelling requirements until such time as the EU approves the UK’s organic food regulatory regime. If the UK does not achieve recognition equivalency from the EU, exporters of organic food will not be able to export organic food or feed to the EU from January 1, 2021.

Amy, who specialises in advising businesses on all commercial contract matters, said: “This transition period is a challenging time for food manufacturers who need to be compliant with new labelling rules and alert to the different requirements depending on where their goods are to be sold.

"If you are a food manufacturer and are unsure of what is required, I recommend looking at the Government website for guidance or talking to a specialist lawyer who can help.”

Clarke Willmott has offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Southampton and Taunton.

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