June Update - Food & Agri News

Lockdown Lifting postponed & Euro Football  - Does this mean a boom for beer and bbqs? Or will a worker shortage mean it's a wash-out?

The meat industry, in particular, has warned of a severe labour shortage: Brexit, a slowdown in immigration, backlogs in training due to the pandemic, lack of funding in training and apprenticeships and changes in taxation rules, means a shortage of workers particularly in key areas for the food industry such as road haulage, meat processing and hospitality. According to reports and industry experts, the lack of workers in these three sectors could result in food shortages and a spike in food inflation.

Sausage Wars – EU vs GB over NI

This month saw the G7 in Cornwall and the sight of Boris having an early morning dip. However it also highlighted the growing divide between the UK and the EU over Northern Ireland (NI).  The ‘sausage wars’ referred to the prohibition in supply of chilled processed meat products from Great Britain (GB) to NI. The ban was one of the conditions imposed on NI to keep it in step with the EU single market rules and prevent a breakdown in trade with the Republic of Ireland and was due to have come into place in January 2021.   The EU does not generally permit the import of chilled meat products like mince and sausages from non-member states.  However, a grace period of six months had been provided to allow meat companies to reorganise supply chains away from the UK mainland. This was therefore due to have come to an end this week.  The EU and UK agreed on Wednesday 29 June to extend this grace period - the time before the ban comes into effect - until 30 September 2021.  It however remains to be seen whether a stable long-term sustainable solution may be found amongst the political posturing or whether this may mark a point at which the NI Protocol may be overturned.

Australia & UK – Trade Deal Struck

A trade deal between the UK and Australia was agreed on 15 June. The deal is the first to be built from scratch since the UK left the EU.  It is seen as an important step towards the UK joining a wider Asia Pacific free-trade agreement.

Some products will do well, reportedly, Scotch whisky, biscuits and Yorkshire Tea would be cheaper to sell to Australia.  However, there has been concern from UK farmers worried they may be undercut on price and standards, particularly in relation to meat products.  The UK government has stated that farmers will be protected by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years, using tariff rate quotas and other safeguards.

Farmers in Australia are allowed to use some hormone growth promoters, pesticides, and feed additives that are banned in the UK and therefore some UK farmers have concerns there will be no meaningful safeguards in place to stop them being undercut and await seeing the detail of this deal so that it can be publicly scrutinised.

EU Animal Feed

The draft Commission Regulation amending Annex IV to Regulation (EC) No 999/2001 comes into force in August. This will allow processed animal protein (PAP) from pigs and insects to be fed to poultry, the feeding of pigs with chicken PAP, or the use of gelatine and collagen from sheep and cattle being fed to other farmed animals.  The European Commission has stated there are no safety concerns. The ban on these by-products being fed to herbivores and a ban on both the use of PAP in feed to cows and sheep and on ‘intra species recycling’, ie cannibalism, remains.  The change was said to be necessary to allow EU farmers to operate by the same standards as those exporting into the union.

Whether Defra will respond by removing the retained regulations banning the use of PAPs in livestock feed remains to be seen. A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The UK is committed to maintaining the highest animal welfare and biosecurity standards, and following our departure from the EU there is no legal obligation for us to implement any of these changes.”  EU to lift its ban on feeding animal remains to domestic livestock | European Commission | The Guardian

EU Authorises mealworms as food

The European Commission (EC) approved mealworms as the first insect as food in the European Union SANTE - Item (europa.eu) on 1st June 2021.

Mealworms are considered as a ‘novel food’, this means any food that has not been widely consumed by people in the EU before 15 May 1997, when the first Regulation on novel food came into force.  

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assessment concluded that yellow mealworm was safe to eat. It will however be subject to EU rules governing the labelling of allergens, which identify a list of 14 allergens that need to be labelled such as eggs, milk, fish, crustaceans. This will now include insects.  EFSA concluded that consumption of the yellow mealworm could potentially lead to allergic reactions, especially for those with pre-existing allergies to crustaceans and dust mites. However, it is stated such incidences remain very low and all products for consumers will be appropriately labelled. 

The Commission has received several applications for the authorisation of other insect species such as Alphitobius diaperinus larvae (lesser mealworm), Gryllodes sigillatus (tropical house cricket), Acheta domesticus (house cricket), Locusta migratoria (migratory locust) and Hermetia illucens larvae (Black soldier fly) under the novel food regulation.  To date, the Commission has considered 11 applications as valid and a safety evaluation by EFSA is being performed for each of them. As soon as a positive opinion is delivered by EFSA, the Commission will proceed with the authorisation process.  

Whether Defra will respond by removing the retained regulations banning the use of PAPs in livestock feed remains to be seen. A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The UK is committed to maintaining the highest animal welfare and biosecurity standards, and following our departure from the EU there is no legal obligation for us to implement any of these changes.”

ASA Roundup…Excessive Drinking

Responsibility Disclaimer does not balance out the message of an Ad

UKG Brunch’s Facebook page advertised a ‘bottomless brunch’. The ASA found that it encouraged excessive drinking by presenting binge drinking alcohol in a humorous light and by normalising and trivialising the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption.  It is interesting to note that while the ASA acknowledged that UKG Brunch had amended the relevant posts to state “Drink Responsibly Guys!! (disclaimer: we don't condone irresponsible drinking) #drinkresponsibly”, it was considered that the caption did not override the message of the ad. UKGBrunch Ltd - ASA | CAP

A further alcohol adjudication against Au Vodka Au Vodka Ltd - ASA | CAP  highlighted the importance not to encourage excessive drinking or unwise drinking styles, for example by featuring multiple bottles of alcohol alongside one person drinking and featuring alcohol being handled or served irresponsibly. The ASA also stated the importance of ensuring ads did not link alcohol with activities in which drinking would be unsafe, for example with the use of potentially dangerous machinery or driving. The ASA stated alcohol ads should not show people who were, or appeared to be, under 25 years of age in a significant role.

Horizon Scanning

  • Allergens - The upcoming Prepacked for Direct Sale (PPDS) regulations or 'Natasha's Law', March’s Allergy Symposium, progress in Precautionary Allergen Labelling has already led to discussions on plans for the Food Allergy Safety Scheme by the Food Standards Agency.

'Natasha’s Law' (or, The Food Information (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2019, also known as the upcoming Prepacked for Direct Sale (PPDS) regulations,) will make it a legal requirement for all food retailers and operators to carry a full list of ingredients and highlight the presence of the 14 allergens on every food item they sell ‘pre-packed for direct sale’ (PPDS)  – Prepacked for direct sale products are foods that have been packed on the same premises from which they are being sold, such as a packaged sandwich or salad made by staff earlier in the day and placed on a shelf for purchase.  Currently, these foods are not required to carry labels and information on allergens, as it had been expected that the customer could speak with the person who made or packed the product for this information. This has led people mistakenly assuming that the food does not contain any allergens; such as Natasha Ednam-Laperouse, who died due to an allergic reaction after eating a Pret a Manger baguette that did not carry allergen labelling; hence, ‘Natasha’s Law’.  The legislation will come into force on 1st October 2021.  Food businesses have therefore had time to adapt and implement change ahead of October but equally it has been an extremely difficult time for this type of food industry due to the reduction of commuters and work from home continuing with the coronavirus pandemic.

The severity of an allergic response is such that, it is likely there will be further and ongoing pressure for restaurants and catering facilities to similarly provide, if not full ingredient listings, certainly written information or signs on allergens alongside menu/food choices on non-prepacked foods.  In any event, the FSA guidance should be followed, policies regularly kept under review and training of staff kept up to date. If recipes are altered and include an allergen that has not previously been present then consideration should be given to ensuring this is actively communicated to customers.

  • Obesity Strategy - Further detail has been provided New advertising rules to help tackle childhood obesity - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) on new legislation that will come into force by the end of next year restricting online advertising of food high in fat salt and sugar (HFSS foods) and TV advertising after 9pm.  The new rules apply to TV and UK on-demand programmes, as well as restrictions on paid-for advertising of HFSS foods online.  The watershed will apply from 9pm to 5.30am, meaning HFSS adverts can only be shown during these times.

It is stated that in order to keep the restrictions proportional, these new regulations will apply to food and drink products of ‘most concern’ to childhood obesity and will ensure the ‘healthiest’ in each category will be able to continue to advertise. This approach means foods such as honey, olive oil, avocados and marmite will be excluded from the restrictions.  It is not certain how these divisions will be drawn up in practice.

The restrictions will apply to all businesses with 250 or more employees that make and/or sell HFSS products, meaning small and medium businesses will be able to continue advertising.  Online restrictions will be limited to paid-for advertising, from ads on Facebook to paid-search results on Google, text message promotions, and paid activity on sites such as Instagram and Twitter.  However, branded advertising online and on TV will continue to be allowed as long as no HFSS products appear.  Brands will also be allowed to continue to promote their products on their own websites and social media accounts.

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