Food Labelling - The changes food business need to be aware of
From the 1st October 2022 food businesses need to make sure the necessary labelling changes have been made to remain compliant in terms of mandatory information.
Failure to make these changes can lead to prosecution for failure to meet the mandatory food labelling requirements. Although we expect Trading Standards Officers to take a proportionate approach to enforcement seeking to work with retailers.
What do I need to know?
The two main changes you need to be aware of for food being placed on the GB market are:
Food Business Operator/importer address requirements; and
Country of origin labelling requirements
FBO/importer address requirements
A UK address must be listed on the packaging. This needs to be the address of the Food Business Operator (FBO) established in the UK, or if the FBO is not established in the UK it must be the address of the importer of the food.
What does this mean for my business?
‘Food Business Operator’ means the natural or legal persons responsible for ensuring that the requirements of food law are met within the food business under their control.
It’s important to consider what “established” actually means.
The FBO must have a physical presence in the UK by way of a unit of food business, this unit needs to be able to take responsibility for the goods and for the presence and accuracy of the food information on the label presented to the consumer in the market in which the goods are placed.
‘Food business’ means any undertaking, whether for profit or not and whether public or private, carrying out any of the activities related to any stage of production, processing and distribution of food.
Can I dual label?
Yes, dual labelling of FBO/importer addresses is acceptable. A UK and an EU address used on a label should ensure address requirements are met, allowing products to be placed on the GB, NI and EU markets. An NI address will be acceptable in all of the GB, NI and EU markets.
However, if an importer’s details are used as an alternative to an FBO address, this must be the name and address in the EU for the EU market and in the UK for the GB market, the importer who imported the goods into the respective market.
The use of two importer addresses, one the importer into the EU and one into the UK, will be acceptable for food labels placed on the GB market. Ideally, the wording should make clear on the label which importer is responsible for importing into which market.
Can I use a PO box?
If you are considering using a PO Box number as a legitimate FBO address, the address provided on the label must be genuine and substantive enough to meet the purposes of the provision of the Food Information to Consumers Regulation which is to enable the FBO or importer to be contacted directly, quickly and easily concerning any issue arising from their product and to allow enforcement notices to be served if necessary.
If PO boxes are used on the label, they must serve this purpose and do not replace the need for the business concerned to be established with a physical presence. The use of a PO Box number for a business that doesn’t have a physical presence in the UK won’t be sufficient.
Ultimately this is likely to become a matter for the enforcing Trading Standards Authorities to consider. It may be the case that the EU will not find PO boxes acceptable on food labels in EU27 countries as this will be a matter of EU interpretation.
Country of Origin labelling requirements for food placed on the GB market
For any food, no change to origin labelling will be required where the origin is expressed as the specific country or countries involved.
But from 1 October 2022, food from GB must not be labelled as ‘origin ‘EU’: the origin given would need to be “UK” or a suitable place of provenance, depending on what the origin labelling rules for that food allow.
If you are a food business either based in the UK or exporting into it, you need to ensure the above changes are made to all packaging by 1st October, local authorities in GB will be responsible for enforcement of labelling changes.
Should you have any questions about food labelling and how the new changes affect your business, please contact Lisa Gilligan, Partner at Freeths on her contact details below.