Food Law News - UK - 2012

DEFRA Interested Parties Letter (LRM 97), 20 February 2012

LABELLING - Implementation of the Council Regulation on the Provision of Food Information for Consumers (1169/2011)

As I am sure you are all aware, the above Regulation came into force on 13 December 2011. The labelling teams in Defra, DH and the Food Standards Agency are working on a Statutory Instrument for the enforcement of the Regulation in England, as well as a consultation package including initial guidance and an assessment of the impact of the Regulation. Similarly, colleagues in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are developing enforcement regulations for their own territories. We are all working together very closely in the development of the documents to ensure a consistent approach wherever possible. In England we are aiming to issue in the summer a consultation package, which will be subject to a 12-week public consultation. This will help ensure that the enforcement regulations are in place by April 2013.

Providing the means for businesses to have the maximum time to adapt to the new requirements is important. We recognise the significance of allowing businesses to take advantage of the derogations we have under the legislation. As well as facilitating a step-by-step approach to compliance with the mince meat and nutrition labelling provisions. We are also taking on board the recommendations of the red tape challenge exercise.

Guidance on the provisions of the FIR will be important to facilitate the transition to the new requirements. Guidance will be developed and consulted on as part of the wider consultation exercise. This will provide insight into the requirements and how these will be underpinned with enforcement provisions. Where further clarity is needed on technical aspects there is scope to consider providing guidance on specific areas. If this aspect is taken forward we will explore the best mechanism to consider these issues with key stakeholders and share the outcomes.

Impacts and costs to businesses

As part of our future work, we will be assessing the impact of the new requirements. We will be seeking further information over the coming months, but we would welcome any information on the impact and potential costs of the requirements you can provide at this time. If you could share these with us, please send them by 05 March 2012.

Ongoing work in Europe

The Regulation left a number of issues to be taken forward by the Commission. These include the detailed reports provided for by the Regulation on origin labelling, labelling of alcohol drinks and transfats.

The Commission’s current plans, as told to the team on 13 February 2012, are to contract a study to assess the impacts of mandatory origin labelling for fresh and frozen meat and of giving origin information when claims are made. The study will look at the impacts on labelling of having to give information such as on the places of birth, raising and slaughter. Once the impact assessment is complete, implementing rules will need to be developed. The Commission are currently scoping the study. They aim to complete it by the end of the year and start drafting implement rules after the study is complete.

There are a number of issues arising from the regulation where some clarification is needed. We are grateful to stakeholders for highlighting these, and we recognise that a common interpretation in Europe is important for trade. These areas include the repetition of mandatory information on a voluntary basis such as in allergy boxes, and where the provisions of the FIR have the potential to conflict with other regulations, for example where there are separate requirements for date of first freezing and defrosted labelling in sector-specific legislation. The Commission has indicated that there will be a series of meetings over the next few months to explore these issues at EU level. The aim will be to ensure consistency in understanding, and the outcome will be reflected in the England guidance. I will provide updates to interested parties on the outcomes of these discussions as they progress.

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