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Guidance on health and identification marks that applies from 1 January 2021

Guidance on the health and identification marks that must be applied to products of animal origin (POAO), such as meat, egg products, fish, cheese and milk, after the end of the EU Transition Period at 11pm GMT on 31 December 2020.

The following guidance is for enforcement authorities and UK food businesses that produce POAO in the UK (Great Britain and Northern Ireland). It outlines the health and identification mark requirements that will allow POAO produced by UK businesses to be placed on Great Britain, Northern Ireland, EU and non-EU markets at the end of the Transition Period.

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What are health and identification marks? 

The health mark is applied directly to POAO, typically meat carcases, by the Competent Authority (CA) or under its supervision, and shows the product is fit for human consumption. 

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is the CA. Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has similar responsibility in Scotland. 

The identification mark is applied to POAO by food businesses to show it has been produced in an establishment approved in accordance with food safety and hygiene regulations, and is typically applied to wrapping, packaging, or labelling which contains, or is attached to, the POAO.

Changes to health and identification marks 

The current ‘UK/EC’ health and identification marks applied to POAO produced in the UK must be used until the end of the Transition Period, which ends at 11pm GMT on 31 December 2020. From then onwards new health and identification marks must be used for POAO produced and placed on the market in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or exported outside of the UK. 

Further down this page you can find: 

  • a description of the new health and identification marks, depending on whether the food business is based in Northern Ireland or Great Britain. The UK Government recommends use of the full country code ‘United Kingdom’ where it is practical
  • information setting out the requirements for different markets 
     

Information on the use of existing stock with the ‘UK/EC’ Identification mark 

On the Great Britain market

Legislation in England, Wales and Scotland is being proposed to allow a 21-month period of adjustment for goods placed on the market in Great Britain to reduce the impact of the change in requirements for identification marks.

This will allow UK businesses to deplete existing stocks of labels, wrapping and packaging carrying the ‘UK/EC’ identification mark owned by the food business operator at the end of the Transition Period.

The provision will be available to UK food businesses for POAO placed on the market in Great Britain. It is not applicable to POAO produced in UK for placing on the EU or non-EU markets. 

It is not intended to enable businesses to replenish stocks of labels, wrapping and packaging carrying the ‘UK/EC’ identification mark after the end of the Transition Period. Businesses are encouraged to adopt the new markings as soon as possible once the Transition Period ends.

The provision will start from 1 January 2021 and be available for food businesses up to 30 September 2022. After this date, the use of stocks of labels, wrapping and packaging with the ‘UK/EC’ identification mark will be unlawful.  

On the Northern Ireland market

Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, goods sold in Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU rules for food labelling. There will be changes to labelling that apply from the end of the Transition Period.

However, the UK Government recognises that businesses will need time to adapt to these new labelling rules.

The UK Government is working with the Department of Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and district councils in Northern Ireland on an enforcement approach of new labelling requirements on the Northern Ireland market that takes these challenges into account.

In line with previous rule changes for labelling, there will be a proportionate and risk-based enforcement approach for identification marks. This approach will be implemented in a way which supports businesses as they adapt to the requirements over time.

Products placed on the market before the end of the Transition Period 

'Placing on the market', as defined in Article 3(8) of Regulation (EC) 178/2002, means the holding of food or feed for the purpose of sale, including offering for sale or any other form of transfer, whether free of charge or not, and the sale, distribution, and other forms of transfer themselves.

If UK businesses place POAO on a market before the end of the Transition Period, it will be allowed to reach its end user in the market it was placed with the existing health and identification marks.

POAO that have been placed on the market in Great Britain before the end of the Transition Period can reach their end-user on the Great Britain market, including circulation within Great Britain, without the need for re-labelling. 

POAO that have been placed on the market in the EU before the end of Transition Period can reach the end-user on the EU market without the need for re-labelling. 

POAO moved into the EU and Northern Ireland markets from Great Britain after the end of the Transition Period will require re-labelling to meet the requirements.

POAO that have been placed on the market in Northern Ireland before the end of Transition Period, can reach the end-user on either the UK or EU markets, without the need for re-labelling.

UK (both Great Britain and Northern Ireland) products on the market at 11:01pm GMT on 31 December 2020 and destined for non-EU countries

Defra is writing to all non- EU countries to explain changes to health and identification marks. 
 

Examples of the health and identification marks that apply from 1 January 2021

FSA approved businesses in Great Britain

Examples of health and identification oval marks: 'UNITED KINGDOM 1234', 'GB 1234', 'UK 1234'

FSA approved businesses in Northern Ireland

Examples of health and identification oval marks: 'UNITED KINGDOM (NORTHERN IRELAND) 1234 EC', 'UK(NI) 1234 EC’

Local authority approved businesses in Great Britain

Example of identification oval mark: 'United Kingdom AA123', 'GB AA123', 'UK AA123'

District Councils in Northern Ireland

Example of identification oval mark: 'United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) AA123 EC', 'UK(NI) AA123 EC'

 

Size and dimension of the marks that apply from 1 January 2021

Health mark

The health mark must be a legible and indelible oval mark at least 6.5cm wide by 4.5cm high. It must contain either the full country name ‘UNITED KINGDOM’ in capitals or the ‘GB’ or ‘UK’ abbreviation for POAO produced in England, Scotland and Wales, followed by the approval number of the establishment. The UK Government recommends use of the full country code ‘UNITED KINGDOM’ where it is practical.

For POAO produced in Northern Ireland the health mark must contain either the full country name ‘UNITED KINGDOM (NORTHERN IRELAND)’ in capitals or 'UK(NI)' abbreviation, followed by the approval number of the establishment. It must also contain the letters ‘EC’ below the approval number.

Letters must be at least 0.8cm high and figures at least 1 cm high. The ink used for the health mark must be authorised in accordance with food law which governs the use of colouring substances in food.

The dimensions and characters of the health mark may be reduced for health marking of lamb, kids, and piglets.

Identification mark

There is no minimum or maximum size for the identification mark. However, it must be legible and indelible, and the characters easily decipherable.

The identification mark must contain either the full country name ‘United Kingdom’ or the ‘GB’ or ‘UK’ abbreviation for POAO produced in England, Scotland and Wales. The UK Government recommends use of the full country code ‘United Kingdom’ where it is practical.

For POAO produced in Northern Ireland, the new identification mark must contain either the full country name ‘United Kingdom (Northern Ireland)’ or the ‘UK(NI)’ abbreviation followed by the approval number of the establishment. It must also contain the letters ‘EC’  after the approval number.

Use of health and identification marks on the Great Britain, Northern Ireland, EU and non-EU markets

Health marks

Health marks that must be applied from 1 January 2021 and destination market
Health mark UK region where mark is applied Great Britain market Northern Ireland market EU 27 market Non-EU market
 
Example of oval health and identification marks: ‘UNITED KINGDOM (NORTHERN IRELAND) 1234 EC)’
Northern Ireland Yes Yes Yes Yes
 
Example of oval health and identification marks: ‘UK(NI) 1234 EC’
Northern Ireland Yes Yes Yes Yes
 
Example of oval health and identification marks: ‘GB 1234’
Great Britain Yes Yes Yes Yes
 
Example of oval health and identification marks: ‘UNITED KINGDOM 1234’
Great Britain Yes Yes Yes Yes
 
Example of oval health and identification marks: ‘UK 1234’
Great Britain Yes No No Yes

 

Identification marks

Identification marks that must be applied from 1 January 2021 and destination market*
Identification mark UK region where mark is applied Great Britain market Northern Ireland EU 27 market Non-EU market
 
Example of oval health and identification marks: ‘UNITED KINGDOM (NORTHERN IRELAND) 1234 EC)’
Northern Ireland (FSA approvals) Yes Yes Yes Yes
 
Example of oval identification mark: ‘United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) AA123 EC’
Northern Ireland (District Council approvals) Yes Yes Yes Yes
 
Example of oval health and identification marks: ‘UK(NI) 1234 EC’
Northern Ireland (FSA approvals) Yes Yes Yes Yes
 
Example of oval identification mark: ‘UK(NI) AA123 EC’
Northern Ireland (District Council approvals) Yes Yes Yes Yes
 
Example of oval health and identification marks: ‘GB 1234’
Great Britain (FSA approvals) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Example of oval identification mark: ‘GB AA123’
Great Britain (local authority approvals) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Example of oval health and identification mark: ‘United Kingdom 1234’
Great Britain (FSA approvals) Yes Yes Yes Yes
 
Example of oval identification mark: ‘United Kingdom AA123’
Great Britain (local authority approvals) Yes Yes Yes Yes
 
Example of oval health and identification marks: ‘UK 1234’
Great Britain (FSA approvals) Yes No No Yes
Example of oval identification mark: ‘UK AA123’
Great Britain (local authority approvals) Yes No No Yes

* As set out above, there will be a separate provision for the Great Britain market whereby existing ‘UK/EC’ identification marks will continue to be valid.