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.
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 from 1 January 2021.
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.
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
Products placed on the market before the end of the Transition Period (11pm GMT on 31 December 2020)
‘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 your UK business placed POAO on a market before the end of the Transition Period, it will be allowed to reach its end user in the specific market upon which it was placed with the existing health and identification marks.
POAO that were 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 were 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 that were 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.
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 UK before the end of Transition Period can reach the end-user on non-EU markets without the need for re-labelling.
Rewrapping or repacking of POAO
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 establishment’s approval number. This is to maintain traceability and ensure food safety is not compromised.
Where product destined for the EU or NI market has left the manufacturing food business and is in a cold store or other storage facilities in Great Britain which is not approved for rewrapping or repackaging, it is important that the product is moved to an establishment which is approved to carry out any rewrapping or repacking activities specifically for that POAO, or returned to the manufacturing food business.
Where over-labelling is appropriate, the food business 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.
Information on the use of existing stock with the ‘UK/EC’ identification mark
On the Great Britain market
Legislation in England, Wales and Scotland provides for 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 is available to UK food businesses for POAO placed on the market in Great Britain. It is not applicable to POAO produced in the UK for placing on the EU, Northern Ireland 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 started from 1 January 2021 and is 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 are changes to labelling that apply from 1 January 2021.
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.
More information regarding general food labelling requirements (Opens in a new window)can be found on the GOV.UK website.
Moving products of animal origin from Great Britain to Northern Ireland
The agreement reached in the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol set out that there will be a:
- Three-month grace period for authorised traders moving products of animal origin, composite products, food and feed of non-animal origin and plant and plant products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland;
- Six-month arrangement has been put in place to enable the continued movement of certain meat products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
There are conditions attached to both these arrangements which are set out in the Defra guidance on the authorised traders scheme and meat products subject to restrictions and prohibitions (Opens in a new window).
The FSA consider that because full traceability is being maintained, there is no risk to public health as a result of POAO bearing the UK/EC identification marks. Therefore, our advice to relevant enforcement authorities is that the same proportionate and risk-based enforcement approach for identification marks should be implemented in a way which supports businesses as they adapt to the requirements over time. This is also in line with the DAERA Compliance Protocol published for SPS controls.
DAERA Compliance Protocol
The Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) have published:
- Compliance Protocol for SPS controls on Great Britain – Northern Ireland movements(Opens in a new window)
- Guidance for authorised traders during the three-month grace period(Opens in a new window)
The compliance protocol sets out that commodities not within scope of the two grace periods (i.e. the authorised trader scheme and arrangements concerning prohibitions and restrictions for some meat products) will be expected to comply with EU rules from 1 January 2021 when moving POAO from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
Further UK Government guidance on moving animal products from Great Britain into Northern Ireland (Opens in a new window)can be found on GOV.UK website.
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
The Defra Chief Veterinary Officer has written to the Competent Authorities of non-EU countries to explain changes to health and identification marks.
The annex to the Chief Veterinary Officer letter (issued December 2020) is reproduced below for information only
A: UK exports of food products of animal origin (POAO) to non-EU Countries: UK identification and health marks
Following the Transition Period (ending 31 December 2020), the form of the health and identification marks applied to products of animal origin (POAO) produced in the UK will change.
1. Existing health and identification marks
The health and identification marks for POAO for export from the UK to non-EU countries are currently in this format:
Health and identification marks applied before the 31 December 2020
2. Future health and identification marks
Health and identification marks applied after the Transition Period will be presented in the following formats:
Health marks applied after the 31 December 2020
Identification marks applied after the 31 December 2020
3. Key changes
For POAO produced in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales):
- the ‘EC’ suffix will be removed from health and identification marks
- the marks will carry the full country name ‘United Kingdom’ or an abbreviated code ‘GB’ or ‘UK’.
For POAO produced in Northern Ireland:
- the health and identification marks will continue to display the ‘EC ‘suffix
- the marks will carry the full country name ‘United Kingdom (Northern Ireland)’ or an abbreviated code, ‘UK(NI)’
In all cases, the approval number of the establishment, which provides the traceability required, will remain unchanged.
4. Exemption for eggs for human consumption and hatching eggs
Eggs in shell for human consumption and hatching eggs produced in the UK do not need to carry the UK identification/health mark outlined above and will continue to be marked in the same way as they are now. However, in some cases, such exported eggs may carry an additional ISO code (GB, GBR or 826) either instead of, or in addition to, the current marking. This may be because such eggs have been batch marked before the exact export destination is decided. Similarly, hatching eggs may also carry the word ‘hatching’.
In all cases, eggs in shell for human consumption and hatching eggs produced in the UK will guarantee the same high standards and quality following the Transition Period.
5. Period of transition for goods on the market
You may continue to receive products carrying the ‘UK/EC’ health and identification marks (see point 1 above) for a significant period of time. These marks continue to be valid marks, and relate to products produced in the UK before the end of the Transition Period. As the supply chain depletes itself of old stocks which bear these health and identification marks, you will see a gradual change to the new health and identification marks (see point 2 above).
All consignments and products certified using any form of the health and identification mark in the United Kingdom, with or without the ‘EC’ suffix, continues to be a guarantee of our continuing high standards and quality delivering official controls.
Examples of the health and identification marks that apply from 1 January 2021
FSA approved businesses in Great Britain
FSA approved businesses in Northern Ireland
Local authority approved businesses in Great Britain
District Councils in Northern Ireland
Size and dimension of the marks that apply from 1 January 2021
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.
There is no minimum or maximum size for the identification mark. However, it must be legible and indelible oval mark, 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.
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