Food Law | UK Regulatory Outlook March 2024

Scotland launches consultation on stricter HFSS restrictions | FSA launch campaign on allergy risks with vegan labelling | Consultation launched on fairer food labelling...
European Union Food, Drugs, Healthcare, Life Sciences
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Scotland launches consultation on stricter HFSS restrictions | FSA launch campaign on allergy risks with vegan labelling | Consultation launched on fairer food labelling


Scotland launches consultation on stricter HFSS restrictions

The Scottish government has launched a consultation on the detail of proposed regulations to restrict the promotions and location restrictions of foods high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS). These would be the equivalent restrictions of the ones that have entered into law in England (although the promotion restrictions have not yet come into force).

The proposals differ somewhat to those in England with meal deal offers and temporary price reductions being included in the Scottish proposals. However the Scottish government states the definition for volume price promotions will be consistent with that set out in the UK government regulations, and that it will use the same nutrient profiling model definition as in England to define the products in scope. The consultation closes on 21 May.

If the regulations are implemented as envisaged, this would mean that businesses would have to comply with a different set of regulations in Scotland compared to England. This would be particularly challenging in relation to price promotions offered online, as it is not yet clear how a trader would determine when to apply the English rules and when to apply the Scottish rules.

FSA launch campaign on allergy risks with vegan labelling

Recent research released by the Foods Standards Agency (FSA) showed that 62% of people who react to animal-based products are confident that products labelled as "vegan" are safe to eat. The regulator says such confidence is incorrect and may be putting these consumers at risk due to cross-contamination. It has launched the "Vegan Food and Allergens Campaign" to make people aware that they must also be checking labels for a "may contain" label.

Emily Miles, CEO of the FSA said: "It's concerning that so many people who are allergic to milk, eggs, fish and crustaceans or molluscs believe food labelled as 'Vegan' is safe for them to eat because they assume it doesn't contain products of animal origin. Unfortunately, the reality of food production means there is still a risk of cross-contamination with animal-based allergens in vegan and plant-based products if produced in the same factory as animal-based products."

Businesses should remember the importance of using precautionary allergen labelling, for example using the "may contain" statement, where there is a known risk of cross-contamination to ensure they are clearly communicating these risks to the consumer.

Consultation launched on fairer food labelling

The government has launched a consultation on fairer food labelling to provide consumers with information on where pork, chicken and eggs products comes from and how production methods align to welfare standards. This follows the announcement made by the environment secretary, Steve Barclay, earlier this year (see our January Regulatory Outlook). The labelling proposals being put forward are as follows:

  • a label with five tiers, underpinning standards that are primarily based on method of production, differentiating between products that fall below, meet and exceed relevant baseline UK welfare regulations; and
  • this would be required on all domestic and imported unprocessed pork, chicken and eggs and certain prepacked and loose minimally processed products with pork, chicken or egg.

The consultation closes on 7 May 2024.

Businesses should read the consultation document and decide whether they would like to respond.

Sector calls for mandatory food waste reporting

Campaign group, Too Good To Go, has sent an open letter to Steve Barclay calling on the government to mandate food waste reporting. The letter follows the government's announcement at the end of last year that it was reconsidering mandatory food waste reporting after it had initially said it would not implement the rules.

Businesses warned that the cost of food being wasted outweighs the cost of extra reporting requirements, noting that reporting requirements would provide them with necessary data to see where there are inefficiencies within the supply chain.

FSA set out plans for novel food process

At the latest board meeting of the FSA on 20 March, the topic of discussion was the acceleration of novel food approval procedures.

One of the key proposals put forward was the elimination of the requirement for a statutory instrument to be created after the FSA's risk assessment in order to approve the decision, which currently slows down the approval process. Instead, it proposes to establish a publicly available official register, following ministerial approval. Additionally, it proposes to remove the need for 10-year renewals of products, which would put a strain on its resources. The FSA will still retain the power to reconsider any product authorisation at any time. These changes are being put forward using powers under the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023. If implemented, they would significantly speed up the process of bringing regulated products to market in the UK.

The FSA intends to put forward these legislative changes ahead of the general election, and will publish the outcome of its consultation in April, with an aim to lay the statutory instruments in July. Read more.


European Parliament and Council approve regulation on geographical indications on products

The European Parliament has approved the reform of EU rules to enhance the protection of geographical indications (GIs) for wine, spirit drinks and agricultural products.

Notably, the new regulation require national authorities to take action against the illegal use of GIs on the internet, including shutting down domain names or implementing geo-blocking. Additionally, the regulations codify existing case law to say that GIs can only be used in the name, labelling or advertising of related processed products if the GI ingredient is used in sufficient quantities to confer an essential characteristic and no comparable product is used.

The Council of the EU formally adopted the regulation on 26 March. It will now be signed and published in the Official Journal of the EU and will enter into force on the twentieth day following its publication.

Feedback period open on plastic food contact materials

The European Commission has, on 13 March, opened a feedback period on the draft amending regulation on recycled plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food, and also the amending regulation on good manufacturing practice and quality control for materials and articles intended to come into contact with food.

The amending regulation will require that these materials and articles comply with restrictions of certain substances, have been subject to a risk assessment and have been subject to an individual toxicological assessment. The feedback period is open until 10 April 2024.

Businesses should review the proposed changes and decide whether they wish to provide feedback on the amending regulations.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Food Law | UK Regulatory Outlook March 2024

European Union Food, Drugs, Healthcare, Life Sciences


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