UK food and drink companies 'will struggle to comply' post-Brexit

Out-Law News | 07 Sep 2020 | 4:15 pm | 1 min. read

The UK food and drink industry has warned it will struggle to comply with new requirements imposed as a result of the end of the Brexit transition period.

Sector representatives including the Food & Drink Federation (FDF) have said that the food and drink sector needs more time to implement required changes in several areas, including labelling, trade administration and customs processes and procedures.

In a document published last month (8 page / 243KB PDF), the FDF said: “The complexity of the challenge that faces business may also mean that UK government will need to consider operating an amnesty period for trading businesses given the difficulties that many will face in the months ahead and the almost impossible challenge of ensuring 100% compliance on 1 January 2021.”

It said there was no uniform action which the industry could take to prepare for the changes ahead and adjustment periods should only begin when details of the future trading relationship between the EU and UK had been agreed, ratified and communicated.

The Federation said there was continued uncertainty about what information producers should put on labels after the end of transition. It suggested re-introducing the 21-month adjustment period which was part of ‘no-deal’ scenario planning provisions, as of 1 January 2021.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson said negotiations were continuing on a trade agreement with the EU, but added that if no agreement had been finalised by 15 October it was unlikely to happen.

Product safety expert Simon Tingle of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said food products placed on the EU market currently had to comply with the EU’s food information to consumers (FIC) regulation. Tingle said at the end of the transition period, all directly effective EU law would be 'rolled over' into UK law and therefore FIC will continue to apply in the UK.

Under the regulation, the name and address of the relevant operator responsible for food information is mandatory information and must appear on all pre-packed food labels.

“From 1 January 2021, UK businesses wishing to place food on the EU market will need to make some changes to their labelling, where it only provides the name of a UK business to reflect the name and address of an EU-based importer. Where it is intended that an external third party will carry out this role, contractual agreement should be sought,” Tingle said.

“EU businesses wishing to place food on the UK market will also need to make some changes to their labelling where it only provides a non-UK address; to reflect the name of a UK-based importer,” Tingle said.

Tingle said there were a number of areas where the position was still unclear and the food industry would welcome greater clarification from government, including the position of Northern Ireland, organic foods, geographical indications, and health and identification marks.