What happens for food labelling & Geographical Indications if there's a no-deal Brexit

A UK government note that has been produced in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit on food labelling and composition and geographical indications . 

With only 6 months potentially before a no-deal may be a reality food producers will need to consider what steps they might need to follow.

The key points within the notes are summarised below:

1. Food labelling and composition

Generally, the UK Withdrawal Act would mean that the EU framework will continue to operate.  However there are a few areas that may reflect the UK being outside the EU within food labelling re origins and addresses of food producers.

  • Origin of food labelling

Where the origin of foods refers to ‘EU’ this would no longer be correct for food from the UK.

Where there are blended products from more than one country for EU/ UK, it will no longer be possible to reference simply ‘EU’ countries but rather, for example, ‘blend of x from more than one country’ or similar wording.

From April 2020 the country of origin or place of provenance of the primary ingredient of a food (where different to that given for the food overall) will be required on labels as part of EU labelling requirements. The government ‘may’ seek views on whether similar national rules will be appropriate when EU rules no longer apply.

  • Addresses on food labels   

Currently a name and address for the producer within the EU or for first importer into the EU is required this would change in as follows:

  • For pre-packed products sold in the UK, the label would need to include the name and a UK address of the responsible food business operator. The food business operator is the business under whose name the food is marketed in the UK or, if that operator is not established in the UK, the importer of the product into the UK.
  • An EU address alone would no longer be valid for the UK market. Similarly, a UK address alone would no longer be valid for the EU market and an address within the remaining EU member states will be required following EU exit.
  • A UK address together with an EU address on the label would mean that the label is valid for both the UK and EU markets.

Examples are provided of different scenarios: i.e. “a business based in France but selling products in the UK can currently provide its name and address in France on products sold in the UK. In a ‘no deal’, the business would need to provide the address of a responsible business in the UK by, for example, setting up a UK hub or working with an importer. A food business in the UK selling pre-packaged food in France can currently provide the address of the business in the UK. In a ‘no deal’, the business would need to provide an address for the responsible business or importer into the EU, in one of the remaining EU member states.”

In order to mitigate the immediate impacts of these changes, the UK government will consult with stakeholders on an option to continue to allow, for a period of up to 6 months following a no-deal exit from the EU, food bearing an EU address to be placed on the UK market. In addition, for foods already labelled and placed on the UK market bearing an EU27 address, these will be allowed to be sold through until stocks are exhausted.

(The note also references the authorisation process for Natural Mineral Waters (NMW) in that domestic UK regulations will then take over and the UK will then recognise both UK and EU NMWs. It will be up to UK NMWs to apply to the EU as a third country application.)

2. Geographical Indications (GIs)

‘GIs’ recognise the heritage and provenance of products which have a strong traditional or cultural connection to a particular place. They provide registered products with legal protection against imitation, and protect consumers from being misled about the quality or geographical origin of goods. Significant GI-protected products from the UK include Scotch whisky, Scottish farmed salmon, and Welsh beef and lamb.

There is a proposal to set up a separate UK GI scheme after exit, consistent with the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS). This new UK framework is intended to provide a clear and simple set of rules on GIs, and continuous protection for UK GIs in the UK. The scheme will be open to new applications, from both UK and non-UK applicants, from the day it enters into force. It is designed to broadly mirror the current EU regime and be no more burdensome to producers, with all 86 current GI protected UK names being given the new UK GI status automatically.   A public consultation will consider the UK GI logo and appeals process. Guidance will be published on the proposed schemes in early 2019.  

The note on steps in the event of a no-deal Brexit provisionally sets out the following key points:

  • The New UK Logo - This will replace the EU logo in any event on leaving the EU. Producers of GI products who wish to use it will need to comply with the rules around the use of the logo which are to be subject to consultation.
  • The UK would no longer be required to recognise EU GI status. EU producers would be able to apply for UK GI status.
  • EU protection of UK GIs – it is anticipated all current UK GIs will continue to be protected by EU schemes. If this assumption is wrong then UK producers will need to submit their applications to the EC as ‘third country’ producers. There will then be the additional requirement to show separately that the GI was protected in the UK.
  • EU Collective Marks or EU Certification Marks – can be applied for in the alternative or as an addition to other GI status.
  • Irish GIs such as Irish Whiskey, Irish Cream and Irish Poteen will continue to be fully protected in the EU and UK.
  • International Protection – the UK government expects UK GIs currently named in and protected by EU free trade and other sectoral agreements to continue to be protected.

The UK has set out its proposed approach to GIs in the White Paper on the UK’s future relationship between the EU and the UK. 

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