Due to the evolving political landscape following Britain’s exit from the EU, the UK food and drink industry has seen changes in laws and policies over the last few years.

One recent post-Brexit change is the ‘Not for EU’ labelling which is being implemented for food sold in the UK.

Although there is currently no enforced law regulation for the labelling, the government has asked the industry to begin transitioning, in preparation for the legislation to be enforced from October this year.

In this blog, we’ve broken down what the label is, and how the industry is set to be affected.

Why do we now need ‘Not for EU’ labels?

The initial purpose of the ‘Not for EU’ labelling was a result of the Windsor Framework, a post-Brexit legal scheme designed to support easier trade between the UK nations. The aim is to “ensure no incentive arises for businesses to avoid placing goods on the Northern Ireland market”, the government said in its Safeguarding the Union command paper.

Food intended for the UK mustn’t pass to the EU, and the label is there to reduce the risk of goods reaching the EU by being moved from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland, and to smooth post-Brexit trade between the UK and Northern Ireland.

What products require the label?

Currently, all meat and some dairy products require the label, however from October 2024 any meat and dairy products moving from Britain to Northern Ireland will be required to feature the ‘Not for EU’ label.

Taking a step further, from July 2025 individual labelling will be required on fruit and vegetables, fish products and composite foods such as pizza. All other products must feature the labelling on packaging. The requirement will also apply to food sold anywhere in the UK, not just food moving to Northern Ireland.

How have UK consumers reacted to this labelling?

The small addition to the packaging on household items like ham and milk confused British consumers, and they questioned whether the label meant that the food didn’t meet the EU standards Britain was used to. Following widescale media coverage earlier this year, titles such as London Evening Standard looked to clarify the meaning of the label and help aid the public’s unease.

How is it expected to impact the industry?

Understandably, the introduction of the labelling has sparked debates around the potential implications for cross-border trade, and potential barriers to export.

Food & Drink Federation chief Karen Betts has questioned the need for such measures. She argues that members are already using the full range of options to supply the Northern Ireland market and said: “Our members have worked hard to ensure shops in Northern Ireland continue to be well-stocked under the new Windsor Framework rules, and we think this is working. Imposing costly, complex labelling changes before we know its necessary risks pushing up manufacturing costs for the sake of it.”

Experts argue that this legislation will harm the UK’s food and drink industry as, alongside the current cost of living crisis, the cost of implementing the new labelling requirements may increase production expenses, which will be passed on to consumers through higher retail prices, created by unneeded costs.

Furthermore, companies that export to the EU as well as the internal market, will now have to divide product lines, adding layers of complexity, time pressures and decreasing profit margins.

There are also concerns that this labelling could make UK food and drink producers less attractive to investors, as the industry battles through teething problems and expects the need to increase costs.

As the industry continues to come to terms with the labelling and its effects, it has been said, however, that the upcoming legislation will not apply to small businesses. This is because the production output is not large enough to significantly impact goods crossing the soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Are you a business owner set to be affected by the ‘Not for EU’ label? If so, we would love to hear from you on X and Instagram.