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Guidance to support businesses changing over to the new identification mark that applies from 1 January 2021, and using the new mark early

Guidance to help UK approved establishments and other food businesses operators manage the changeover to the new identification mark 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. This guidance includes information about applying the new mark before the end of the Transition Period.

The current ‘UK/EC’ identification mark applied to POAO produced in the UK must be used until the end of the Transition Period. At the end of the Transition Period, your business must stop applying the ‘UK/EC’ identification mark to POAO. The new identification mark must be used for POAO produced and placed on the market in Great Britain, Northern Ireland or exported outside of the UK.

Read our guidance on the identification mark that applies from 1 January 2021 and the destination market. It sets out what will happen to POAO that is already on the Great Britain, Northern Ireland and EU27 markets at the end of the Transition Period. In summary, POAO will be allowed to reach its end user in the market upon which it was placed with the existing identification mark.

The requirement for your business to continue to place safe food on the market and maintain an effective food safety management system remains. 

What is an ‘identification mark’ and who is responsible for its application?

The identification mark is applied by a food business operator to POAO. Each identification mark has a unique approval number. This approval number will remain unchanged. It shows that the product has been manufactured in an establishment approved by the designated competent authority. 

It can be applied directly to a product, to its wrapping/packing or by a label affixed to the product, packing or wrapping. It may also be applied to documentation accompanying a consignment. This must be done before the product leaves the establishment of production. 

If the product undergoes a further approved process in another approved establishment, or the wrapping or packing is removed, a new identification mark must be applied with the new establishments’ approval number. This is to maintain traceability of the product.

Sometimes, POAO may have more than one identification mark, for example in the dairy sector, provided it is clear which one applies to any given product. If an establishment processes POAO which requires approval, and food which does not, the food business operator may apply the same identification mark to both types of food.

Managing the changeover

Product for 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.  

Food business operators must have documented controls to ensure that any product leaving their establishment is labelled correctly for the intended market and ensure that an appropriate procedure is in place to respond to a product accidently being placed on the wrong market. 

During the adjustment period, product with the ‘UK/EC’ identification mark accidently placed on the EU market will be non-compliant with EU law and could be subject to enforcement action by the applicable EU member state. 

Product for the Northern Ireland market

Guidance on the Northern Ireland market is available

Application of the new identification marks before the end of the Transition Period

It is recognised that food business operators who export POAO to the EU or Northern Ireland market may need to prepare to meet the new identification mark requirements before the end of the Transition Period. Food business operators may manage this process as appropriate as long as product remains within their control, ready for release to the EU or Northern Ireland market after 11pm GMT on 31 December 2020.

The FSA is working with local authorities on a risk-based and proportionate enforcement approach taking into account the challenges of meeting new requirements in line with the Food Law Code of Practice. 

If product bearing a new identification mark is found on the EU/Northern Ireland market prior to the end of the Transition Period, it will be non-compliant with EU law and could be subject to enforcement action by the applicable EU member state. 

After the end of the Transition Period

After 11pm GMT on 31 December 2020, POAO produced in Great Britain with the ‘UK/EC’ identification mark will not be permitted to be placed on the EU market.

Any product produced by a food business operator in Great Britain intended for the EU or Northern Ireland market will need to carry the new identification mark. This means that any POAO with a 'UK/EC' mark will need to be rewrapped, repacked or relabelled to be compliant with EU law.

Any rewrapping or repacking of POAO must be carried out by an establishment, approved to carry out the required activity. If carried out by an establishment separate to the original manufacturer, the appropriate identification mark must be applied with the establishments’ approval number. This is to maintain traceability and ensure food safety is not compromised.

Where product destined for the EU or Northern Ireland market has left the manufacturing food business operator and is in Great Britain cold stores or other storage facilities which do not require approval, it is important that the product is moved to an establishment which is approved to carry out any re-wrapping or re-packing activities specifically for that POAO, or returned to the manufacturing food business operator. If a food business operator wishes to make a significant change to their current operation or amend their existing approval to include additional approvable activities, such as re-wrapping or re-packaging, they must approach their enforcement authority.

In some instances, over-labelling, the ‘UK/EC’ identification mark with a new identification mark may be appropriate before exporting product. The food business operator will need to be satisfied that any over-labelling is secure and does not obscure any other mandatory labelling information. Failure to meet these requirements may result in rejection by enforcement authorities in the country of destination.