Morrisons warns of EU rules leading to crowded labelling

UK authorities will take a “pragmatic approach” to enforcing food labelling changes required in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Defra has claimed.

Publishing updated guidance today (5 February), Defra confirmed that while “food businesses will have a 21-month transition period for the most significant changes to food labels”, some technical changes would be required “from day one” in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

This would include not using the EU emblem on goods produced in the UK unless authorised to do so by the EU; not using the EU organic logo on any UK organic products unless the UK and EU have reached an equivalency arrangement before exit day; and not labelling UK food with an ‘EU’ origin.

These changes will not apply to food and drink products placed on the UK market on or before 29 March 2019. Such products can “continue to be sold through until the stocks are exhausted”, Defra confirmed.

The government would also encourage enforcement officers to “take a pragmatic approach to enforcement” for goods placed on the UK market after 29 March 2019, where information was “technically incorrect” as a result of the EU exit, it added.

This approach would fully protect “the interests of consumers while ensuring industry are able to manage the scale of labelling changes required”, Defra suggested.

Given the EU and non-EU countries might require “wholly accurate labelling for access to their markets”, labels on food and drink products destined for export should be either over-stickered or replaced, the department advised.

“A 21-month transition period has been agreed to give businesses more time to make other labelling changes such as ensuring there is a UK address for the responsible Food Business Operator or importer on the label,” Defra added.

“There will be a three-year transition period for the new UK Geographical Indication Schemes logo. The new UK logo will be available from 29 March 2019 so producers have the option to make GI labelling changes before the end of the adoption period if they wish.”