Agri-food businesses urged to prepare for new legislation
Representatives from the Northern Ireland agri-food industry were urged to get ready for the new EU Food Information Regulations, which will come into effect on 13thDecember this year at a breakfast briefing at Queen’s University.
Hosted by A&L Goodbody, Danske Bank and MSO Cleland, the briefing examined the legal, financial and operational considerations that businesses must take in order to ensure that their food and beverage packaging is compliant with the planned EU legislation.
The new Food Information Regulations stipulate that all food and beverage labelling must clearly state mandatory nutrition information on processed foods and mandatory origin labelling of unprocessed meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry. Under the rules producers must also ensure better legibility by adhering to a new minimum size of text and will be required to highlight allergens such as peanuts or milk in the list of ingredients.
A&L Goodbody associate Micaela Diver explained: “The new Food Industry Regulations serve as an excellent example of why Northern Ireland businesses need to keep a close eye on decisions made by the EU regarding legislation changes. Whilst the legislation does not come in until the end of the year, being prudent and planning ahead could save them time and money in the long run.
“Local businesses should seek advice in respect of understanding of these new Food Information Regulations and how they can be interpreted in practice. Whilst there is no penalty for implementing these changes early, the same cannot be said for being late, so it is important that they stay ahead of the game and plan to have everything in order well in advance of 13th December.”
John Henning, Danske Bank’s Head of Agricultural Relations highlighted the financial implications of the regulations, saying: “The implementation of these new regulations in December won’t come without its costs for the local agri-food industry. Obviously local firms will be expected to self-fund these changes and we recommend that they consult with their bank in good time to manage their working capital or borrowing requirements to make the necessary changes to their food and beverage labelling..”
Ian Edwards, MSO Design and Technical Director, said: “The implementation of the new Food Information Regulations is now only six months away. In preparation for these changes, businesses should consider important factors such as the lead time to change or redesign their label artwork, order and print new packaging, and then get their product on the shelf. The challenge of managing the rundown of existing stock and replenishing it with newly-labelled compliant stock should not be underestimated.
“Some businesses will also take this as an opportunity to revisit their packaging and perhaps adopt a new design. The key thing is to make these decisions early and begin the implementation process in time to ensure that their packaging is compliant by 13th December.”