Preparing for Brexit: an Environmental Health Overview

Unless a withdrawal agreement is approved (or Article 50 is delayed), the UK will leave the European Union with no negotiated exit - and in a second everything will change.

In Scotland food, health and safety, and environmental protection, regulation has been driven by the EU. There are over 50 separate EU Directives and Regulations alone that govern food standards in the UK, whilst more than 40% of all legislation coming out of EU is food related. 

Below is some information and helpful additional sources of information to help prepare for Brexit. 

 

Food Safety and Standards

Food Law

The majority of food law currently comes from the EU. Food Standards Scotland (FSS) have been working with the Scottish and UK Governments to make sure the same legal standards and regulations apply to food should the UK leave the EU without a deal. This has involved a lengthy and complex process to implement ‘statutory instruments’ (legislation) bringing existing EU laws over into UK law so that there is a smooth transition, and that standards applied in the EU are carried over to the UK. These proposals have been thoroughly reviewed by the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee. FSS have also been consulting on, and making changes to, some domestic food law (Scottish Statutory Instruments), to ensure that food law continues to work effectively after exit.

The Food Standards Scotland website gives more information on what it's been doing to prepare for EU exit.

 

Food availability

There is concern that food will become more expensive after Brexit, and that food availability or choice may also be affected. Whilst it isn’t possible to predict exactly what might happen as a result of the UK leaving the EU with no deal, it is possible that disruption to well-established supply chains could have an impact on the food environment that consumers are currently used to. 

There may be less choice for a while. Fresh foods with a short life – like lettuce, tomatoes or soft fruit – will probably be affected most, because they aren't 'in season' in the UK in March, which means most will come into the UK from other countries.

As we move into summer, the UK will be able to grow more of its own fruit and vegetables and these shortages should stop.

Any food coming into the UK from outside of Europe shouldn't be affected by EU exit. It may take a little while longer to get into the country because of delays at ports, but there will be no change other than that.

 

Importing and Exporting

There are actions businesses will need to take if they import or export products between the UK and EU.

Businesses will require to get a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number so they can continue to import or export goods and apply for authorisations.

Importing animals and animal products

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the way UK authorities are notified of these imports will change.

Businesses will no longer be able to use the EU’s Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) to notify the UK authorities about an import. There will be a new system to replace this, launching in March 2019.

Businesses who import live animals or animal products, fish, shellfish or fish products from non-EU (third) countries directly or transiting through the EU, your consignment will need to be checked at a Border Inspection Post (BIP).

Businesses who import high-risk food and feed not of animal origin from non-EU (third) countries, directly or transiting through the EU, will need to enter the UK via a Designated Point of Entry (DPE).

For more information, see importing animals, animal products and high-risk food and feed not of animal origin after EU exit.

Exporting animal products to the EU

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the EU would need to list the UK as a third country and give us approval to export products of animal origin (POAO) to the EU. 

If the UK does become a third country exporters of animals, animal products, fish and fishery products from the UK to the EU will need to follow a new process if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. 

Some of these goods could face large tariffs and businesses should be aware of potential EU trade tariff changes.

The business must complete an Export Health Certificates (EHC). The EHCs must be signed by an authorised signatory (for example, local authority Environmental Health departments) following the consignments inspection.

For exports of fish and fish products businesses will also need a catch certificate.

The consignment must enter the EU via a Border Inspection Post (BIP) within the EU. It is likely that current trade routes could be affected. There is not currently a BIP at Calais, although French authorities expect these to be operational by the end of March 2019. See a list of EU BIPs

In addition, businesses must follow the EU’s customs processes for third countries.

The Scottish Government is working with the industry and others within the supply chain to assess the effects of this disruption and work on ways to make sure the impact is minimal.

'5 essential steps to prepare for a no-deal Brexit' has been prepared by Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland and Business Gateway.

For more information, see exporting animals, animal products, fish and fishery products to the EU after EU Exit.

 

Food labelling

The rules for what you must show on food labels will change for some food and drink products if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

The changes include:

·      Food business operator (FBO) address labelling

·      Country of origin labelling

·      Use of the EU emblem

·      Use of the EU health and identification marks

·      Use of the EU organic logo

·      Use of the geographical indication (GI) logo

Food business operator (FBO) address

Pre-packaged food sold in the EU exported for the UK, must include an EU address for the FBO or EU importer on the packaging or food label.

Country of origin labels

It will be inaccurate to label UK food as origin ‘EU’. UK food should not be labelled as origin ‘EU’.

There are also additional EU rules on food labelling required by April 2020 regarding the origin of food.

EU emblem

The EU emblem on goods produced in the UK must not be used unless it has been authorised by the EU to do so.

EU health and identification marks

The EU oval health and identification marks must be replaced with new UK health and identification (ID) markson certain food products of animal origin (POAO).

Following a consultation exercise with the food industry, discussions with the European Commission, and agreement with Defra the final design for the new health and ID marks has been agreed. This will ensure the UK continues to have the ability to export POAO to the EU.

For businesses who export POAO to the EU, the health and ID marks must carry either: 

·      the official two-digit ISO Code GB or 

·      the full country name in capital letters UNITED KINGDOM. 

More information is available here.

Organic food

If the UK is able to achieve equivalence with the EU before the UK leaves on the 12 April, then UK organic goods will be able to enter the EU and continue to use the logo.

If the UK does not achieve recognition from the EU, the EU market will be closed to UK organic certified produce.

Read more about trading and labelling organic food if there’s no Brexit deal.

Geographical Indication (GI) logo

The UK government anticipates that the EU GI schemes will continue to protect all current UK GIs after the UK leaves the EU in a deal or no deal scenario. But, if the UK leaves with no deal, it’s possible that the EU may not continue to protect UK GI products.

In the event of no deal, business will need to be prepared to apply to the European Commission to regain:

·      EU protection

·      the right to use the EU GI logo

GI-protected food or drink product (except wine or spirits) produced in UK, must use the relevant UK logo (to be released) on any products for sale in the UK. For GI-protected wine or spirits, the logo use is optional.

Businesses have three years from the launch of the UK schemes to adopt the relevant UK logo on food and agricultural product packaging.

Find out more about protecting food and drink names if there’s no Brexit deal.

 

Health and Safety 

Health and safety protections, and business duties to protect the health and safety of people, will not change with Brexit.​

The Health and Safety Executive have made minor amendments to regulations to remove EU references but legal requirements, and the protections these provide, will be the same as they are now.​

After Brexit businesses should continue to manage their business and employees in a proportionate way to reduce risk and to protect people and the environment.

Therefore whatever the deal the UK leaves the EU with, or in the event of no-deal, Environmental Health at Local Authorities approach to health and safety regulation will remain the same. 

 

Environment

Scotland has measures in place to protect the environment, and these measures are supported by EU laws and standards. These EU laws and standards may be affected by EU exit.

The Scottish Government is committed to making sure it meets EU environmental standards after EU exit.

Environmental legislation is being corrected to make sure the law keeps working as it has been in key areas. The Scottish Government is working on this with public bodies like the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage.

These areas include:

·      air quality

·      chemicals

·      flooding

·      habitat and species protection

·      noise

·      pollution prevention and control

·      statistics and data

·      waste

·      water

·      wildlife management

Environmental laws and principles

The European Commission and the European Court of Justice currently help monitor and enforce environmental laws in Scotland.

The Scottish Government is discussing ways to make sure environmental laws are still monitored and enforced in an effective way after EU exit.

EU law is shaped by environmental principles – for example, that pollution should be prevented and dealt with at the source where it takes place, and that the polluter should pay for the cost of this.

These principles influence environmental law and policy in Scotland, and the Scottish Government is discussing ways to make sure this continues after EU exit.

 

Further advice

Please see the following links for further information. 

PrepareforBrexit.Scot- Brexit planning for businesses in Scotland- this tool helps businesses identify what they can do to prepare their company for business post- Brexit.

MyGov.Scot- Information and guidance to help prepare for EU exit, including a “no deal” situation. 

 

EU exit has not happened, and many of the details are not yet known or are regularly changing. So please keep checking the additional sources given for updates.

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