What Does Brexit Mean for the Food Industry?

A tractor harvesting wheat in a field during sunset

April 22, 2021

Impact of regulatory changes for food producers following Brexit

The transition period for the UK's exit from the EU ended on December 31, 2020. Products already on the market in the EU, the European Economic Area (EEA), or the UK (Northern Ireland and Great Britain — England, Wales, and Scotland) before January 1, 2021, do not need to comply with any regulatory changes that took effect from that date and can continue to circulate until they reach their end user. From January 1, however, all product groups that previously required regulatory approval in the EU now need separate authorizations for Great Britain and for the EU (including Northern Ireland) before they can be placed on the market.

For food products, including food contact materials, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) with Food Standards Scotland (FSS) now undertake the risk analysis process for regulated products previously undertaken by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and provide advice to ministers who decide whether the product can be placed on the market in England, Wales, and Scotland. For the time being, risk assessments for FSA and FSS authorization are to be carried out according to the requirements of retained EU law and the guidance previously developed by EFSA. When a decision is made to authorize a product, this will mean a change to relevant British legislation to set out how the product can be used and any associated conditions of use.

The long-term approach to regulatory approvals for placing products on the Northern Ireland market remains to be fully clarified. For as long as the Northern Ireland Protocol is in force, Northern Ireland will continue to apply certain specified EU laws, including laws on food, animal health and welfare, and the organization of official controls of food and feed. EU bodies such as the European Commission or EFSA will retain certain functions related to foods and food contact materials intended to be placed on the market in Northern Ireland, and competent authorities in Northern Ireland will retain certain obligations to the EU. Most food hygiene and safety laws therefore have continued to apply in Northern Ireland from January 1 in much the same way as before the UK exited the EU.

How Exponent Can Help

Exponent's European food consultants have significant expertise and experience in supporting successful pre-market regulatory approvals and post-market regulatory and risk management for food (including food contact materials) under European authorization systems. We are well placed to continue supporting clients seeking approvals and to provide advice on regulatory requirements in both the UK and the remaining 27 EU member states to help food businesses remain compliant in the rapidly changing regulatory landscape.