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EU Labeling Explained

Starting October 1, many food products will sport new labels, catching the eye of shoppers everywhere. The question arises: what are these labels, and what’s their link to the European Union?

Rebecca Kaya from Ashbury, a food label consultancy, sheds light on the introduction of these ‘Not for EU’ labels. Their advent traces back to the UK’s departure from the EU in 2020, which introduced complications in trade between the UK and Northern Ireland (NI) due to economic borders. With different food regulations between the UK and EU, products shuttling between them necessitated border checks and paperwork, a financial strain for businesses.

The ‘Not for EU’ labels emanate from the ‘Windsor Framework’, a UK-EU agreement for smoother retail goods movement from Great Britain to NI. This framework addresses the disparities between GB’s biosecurity and goods standards and the EU’s standards followed in NI. It outlines rules for transferring specific retail items, including food, from the UK to NI.

A highlight of the Windsor Framework is the institution of ‘green’ and ‘red’ lanes for imports, operational from October. Products entering NI from GB that are unlikely to move to the EU will use the ‘green lane’ and will feature the ‘Not for EU’ label. Conversely, the ‘red lane’ is reserved for goods potentially entering the EU from NI, necessitating full customs checks and EU biosecurity measures, with no requirement for the new label.

From October 1, ‘Not for EU’ labels will appear on packaged meats, including beef, pork, and poultry, and select dairy products like pasteurised milk and raw cheese. By October 2024, the label requirement expands to encompass all milk, cheese, yoghurt, and ice cream. This initial phase paves the way for more regulations in the future.

The efficacy and impact of these changes on the food industry remain a topic of debate, especially concerning the UK-NI border friction. Nonetheless, shoppers should brace for the presence of these new labels in supermarkets.

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