The UK intends to maintain its existing food safety standards, labelling and food quality standards in the event of a no deal Brexit.
Compositional standards are prescribed by law in some cases in order to ensure minimum standard and quality. The compositional standards include those in relation to
- jam and similar products
- natural water spring water and bottled drinking water
- spreadable fats milk and milk products
- coffee and chicory extracts
- fruit juices and fruit nectars
- condensed and dried milk
- cocoa and chocolate products
- certain sugar products
- caseins and caseinates
There are also domestic non-EU rules in certain sectors
The EU food labelling requirements are set out in EU regulations. After Brexit, UK food safety standards will continue to be based on new UK legislation identical to the existing EU legislation.
There are standardised EU requirements in respect of labelling and packaging of food. Nutritional labelling may be required where a nutritional or health claim is made. There are specific rules on organic products. In certain cases, additional requirements such as health marks ingredients and declarations may be required.
Labelling UK food as being of EU origin will no longer be appropriate. From April 2020 the country of origin or place of provenance of the primary ingredient (where different to that for the food overall) would be required on the label as part of EU food labelling requirements.
After Brexit, food may not be designated as EU origin if it is produced in the UK. In the case of pre-packaged products sold in the UK, the label must set out the name and UK address of the responsible food business operator. This is the business under whose name the food is marketed in the UK or if it is not established in the UK, its importer.
An EU address no longer suffices for this purpose. It is contemplated that steps may be taken in the short term for a period of about six months, to deal with the changes.
Importation of Food
The importation of food products from outside the EU is subject to significantly more controls than that within the EU. Non-EU suppliers must have systems equivalent to that under EU law. It might reasonably be expected on day one that each of the UK and EU will recognise each other’s food standards and food safety rules. However, this may not necessarily be so in the event of continuing disagreements and failure to conclude a withdrawal agreement.
The broad principle which would be expected to apply both in the case of imports from the UK into the EU and from the EU into the UK is that products must enter through a border inspection post approved for that food category. It must be labelled, and the HACCP (hazards analysis and critical control point after the primary production stage) system must be used throughout the whole process.
UK proposes to continue to allow EU food to be placed in the UK market for a period of six months even in the event of a hard Brexit, subject to review. In the case of food already labelled and placed on the UK market bearing an EU 27 address this will be permitted to be sold until stocks are exhausted.
Food of Animal Origin
Imports of products of animal origin will generally require a health/veterinary certificate which must be issued by and based on procedures undertaken in the approved non-EU state. Animals of product origin include live animals, foodstuffs and byproducts. It includes goods which have come into contact with animals such as hay and straw. It includes fresh meats milk and milk products, eggs, hide and skin.
In principle products of animal origin are subject to documentary checks, identification checks and in some cases physical checks at the point of entry into the EU. Licenses may be required for particular types of food of animal origin.
A common veterinary entrance document is issued once food products are released. A copy of the common veterinary entrance document is to accompany the food of animal origin to their first destination after clearance of customs.
Fruit and Vegetables
There are common EU standards on the import, sale and marketing of certain fruit and vegetables. Goods must be graded packaged and marked in accordance with EU requirements. Seasonal duties may apply to particular types of food and vegetables.
Non-EU countries are certified and approved by the EU as having an approved inspection service which means that their conformity certificates are accepted as proof of conformity with EU standards. In principle, the UK and EU should approve each other although in the event of an acrimonious withdrawal this may not immediately occur.
A certificate of conformity is based on a conformity check from physical inspection based on a risk analysis. The importer must ensure the procedures and standards pass the relevant import risk assessment system.