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Food trade bodies consider legal action over post-Brexit ‘not for EU’ labelling | Food & drink industry

Food industry trade bodies are debating whether to take legal action against the government over its post-Brexit plans to require all meat and dairy products sold in the UK to be labeled as ‘non-EU’. ing.

Food producers say the labeling could add £250m a year to costs and further fuel inflation, and if a solution cannot be found with the government, legal options are not a viable option. We are considering filing an appeal.

One group said it was already consulting with lawyers to consider its options if a “sensible alternative” to the current plan was not proposed.

As part of the Windsor Framework agreed with the EU last year, from October 2023 all meat and dairy products sent from the UK for sale in Northern Ireland will be required to carry a ‘non-EU’ label.

The measures are aimed at preventing goods being sent to the Republic of Ireland, which does not have a hard border with customs checks on goods from Northern Ireland, to avoid evading EU regulations.

However, as part of the ‘Protect Unions’ deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) agreed in January, this labeling will be extended to all meat and dairy products sold in the UK from October. . From July 2025, fruits and vegetables will also be required to be labeled.

The government says the label is necessary “to ensure that there is no incentive for businesses to avoid placing their goods on the Northern Ireland market” and that businesses in Northern Ireland can access goods in other parts of the UK as well. It has said.

Food producers, manufacturers and retailers have objected to the UK-wide approach, saying it would impose extra costs on businesses and higher prices for consumers.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) estimates that the additional labeling could cost the industry up to £250m a year.

Rod Addy, executive director of the Provision Trade Federation, said legal action was being considered by several groups as a viable option if the government did not intervene.

“We have not yet begun a legal challenge, but it is being discussed and considered as a serious possibility,” he said.

John Whitehead, director of the Food and Drink Exporters Association, said the trade group was considering a legal challenge as a last resort, but that the group wanted to “work with the government rather than fight it”.

A representative from a third-party industry group, who asked not to be named, said: “We want to work with the government to find sensible alternatives to the ‘non-EU’ labeling proposals that meet their and the DUP’s objectives and are also good for business. “I think so,” he said. We believe these exist.

“However, as you can imagine, we are also taking professional advice, including legal advice, given the costs and other risks associated with the Government’s proposals.”

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Industry’s main concern is that the change will cause havoc with production, with many companies having to run two separate production lines for products destined for the EU and the UK. There is.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which represents more than 1,000 manufacturers, has written to Environment Secretary Steve Barclay, saying the labeling scheme could hurt exports and lead to higher food prices.

He also said the new system would make investing in British food and drink companies significantly less attractive, with some overseas investors already suspending their plans because of the changes.

The government plans to conclude its consultation on labeling on March 15 and is considering exemptions for small and medium-sized enterprises. Nevertheless, producers were critical of this process.

Peter Hardwick, trade policy adviser at the British Meat Processors Association, said: “The consultation has been published and states: ‘The Government has confirmed that the labeling requirements for produce will apply across the UK. “We have enacted laws to ensure that there are no incentives for agricultural products.” Companies should avoid listing products on the NI market. ”

“That doesn’t seem like consultation to me. It’s effectively a glorified impact assessment.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been contacted.

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