New DEFRA consultation on amending domestic food legislation
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (“DEFRA”) recent consultation considers proposed amendments to eight different pieces of domestic food and drink legislation with a view to ensuring that the same will remain operable following Brexit (the “Consultation”). Although the Consultation mostly proposes “minor technical fixes”, it also highlights the necessity of adopting more substantial changes in relation to the domestic honey and natural mineral waters legislation, as more particularly described below.
The Honey (England) Regulations 2015 currently require honey producers to display the honey’s country of origin on its packaging. However, if a product is blended from honey originating from more than one country, its packaging must clearly state whether the blend originated in the EU by displaying one of the following messages: “EU”, “non-EU” or “EU and non-EU”. Nevertheless, once the UK leaves the EU, this terminology will no longer be accurate. In order to tackle this issue, DEFRA proposes the following options:
- No change to be made to the UK honey labelling. Unfortunately, this option does not deal with the fact that packaging would still indicate whether or not the honey originated from the EU, despite the UK having terminated its formal connection with the EU.
- The message “A blend of honey from more than one country” could be shown on honey labels where appropriate. One clear advantage of this option constitutes the fact that relevant producers would need to re-print and display only one new set of wording for honey blended from more than one country, as opposed to three (which is the current position).
- The labels “UK” and “non-UK” could be displayed on honey packaging in order to indicate whether the blend has a sole-UK or mixed origin. However, this option could cause confusion for customers as unless the blend solely originated in the UK (which is rarely the case), its packaging will display the non-UK option.
The Natural Mineral Water, Spring Water and Bottled Drinking Water (England) Regulations 2007 require natural mineral waters (“NMW”) to undergo a process of recognition in order to prove that they have the necessary composition to be sold and marketed as NMW in EU Member States. DEFRA proposes the following amendments in order to ensure that the UK will have a say on what can be traded as NMW in England following Brexit:
- Rolling over the recognition of existing EU NMWs, which would unfortunately only be guaranteed by the EU for the first six months following Brexit. After this period, the EU would be free to withdraw the recognition of existing EU NMWs, which would have to undergo a full recognition process in order to continue to be legally sold as NMWs in the UK.
- Removing the recognition of existing EU NMWs immediately after Brexit, requiring EU NMWs to undergo a full recognition process as explained above.
- Rolling over the recognition of existing EU NMWs for five years, requiring EU NMW to undergo a full recognition process at the end of the five year period.
If the aforementioned is amongst your areas of interest and you wish to have your say in regards to the manner in which the domestic honey and natural water legislation is to be amended, do not forget to complete the DEFRA online survey by 11:45 pm on 13 November 2018.