UK food businesses are pressing the Government to clarify rules around food labelling in time for products bound for export to be prepared for the end-of-year Brexit deadline.

The country leaves the EU on 31 December and there are fears there is not enough time to produce new labels needed to export food before that date. Once the UK departs, the labels British food businesses use will no longer be legally recognised on the continent.

Exporters will need new packaging to legally sell goods both to the EU and customers in Northern Ireland from the beginning of January.

However, with just four months to go, trade associations say they are still waiting for news, having argued the end of August was the absolute deadline for issuing guidance that will allow them to produce new labels in time for 1 January.

Alex Turtle, food law, labelling and enforcement manager at industry body The Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said: “The UK’s exit from the EU requires food labels to be adapted as never before due to the unique situation of the country’s status change.

“These label changes are complex, and clarity from the Government is urgently required in order for industry to be able to create compliant food labels post-exit.

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By GlobalData

“There are particular uncertainties about the food business operator’s name and address requirement for the different markets of concern and Government direction on the labelling implications of the Northern Ireland Protocol remains outstanding.  

“With the transition period nearing its end, UK-EU negotiations still ongoing and updates to official guidance still awaited, the food industry has already practically run out of time to process the necessary label changes ahead of the January 2021 deadline.”

When contacted by just-food, the UK government’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) sent through briefing details that said it is incorporating European law on food labelling and compositional standards and requirements into UK law. 

“However, some details will have to change as a result of the UK no longer being an EU member state,” they said.

The briefing details said the level of information on food labels will not change but the language used and requirements around businesses responsible for the information will change to reflect that the UK has left the EU.

In relation to timing they said details will be shared with businesses and posted on its website “as soon as possible”.