The government has laid out rules for what food and drink businesses must show on product labels if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019.

In the updated guidance published this week (5 February), the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) outlined changes to the use of country-of-origin labels, the EU organic logo and the EU emblem (see full details below).

Some of the new rules will be effective from exit day, while others will have a longer period with which businesses are to be compliant. However, it emphasised that “wherever a transition period is not possible, Defra will encourage a pragmatic enforcement within the UK”.

The proposals are subject to agreement with devolved administrations and parliamentary process.

“The UK government is aiming, wherever possible, to allow a transition period for labelling changes in relation to goods produced or imported and placed on the UK market after exit day,” it stated.

As of 29 March 2019, the following changes must be adhered to by businesses which have food products placed on the UK or EU market after that date.

  • Country-of-origin labels: It will be inaccurate to label UK food as origin ‘EU’. For the UK market, you should display additional information online and on signage in shops to help clarify the origin of the food. For the EU market, UK food should not be labelled as origin ‘EU’.
  • EU organic logo: You must not use the EU organic logo on any UK organic products, unless the UK and EU reach an equivalency arrangement – where both still recognise each other’s standards – before exit day.
  • EU emblem: You must not use the EU emblem on goods produced in the UK unless you have been authorised by the EU to do so.

In addition, companies that produce a food or drink product that qualifies for the Geographical Indication (GI) logo must ensure they use the relevant UK logo (which has yet to be released) on any products for sale in the UK by March 2022.