Food labelling: country of origin

Guide

Last updated 21 December 2020

You must label your meat, fish or seafood product with its country or place of origin if you're selling it to the final consumer or mass caterer.

A catering establishment is a place where food is prepared ready for immediate consumption, such as:

  • restaurants
  • canteens
  • clubs
  • pubs
  • schools
  • hospitals
  • public food sellers including a vehicle or fixed or mobile stall

Beef and veal labelling

You must label all chilled and frozen beef and veal, including minced beef and veal, with the:

  • reference number or code linking the meat to the animal or group of animals it came from
  • country of birth
  • country of rearing
  • country of slaughter
  • country of cutting
  • approval numbers of the slaughterhouse and cutting plants

Beef and veal sold in NI must refer to 'Origin: non-EU' if the animal your beef or veal came from:

  • was born, reared or slaughtered outside of the EU
  • you do not have the full individual country information

For beef and veal sold in GB, you can refer to 'non-EU' until 30 September 2022.

From 1 October 2022, you must use 'non-UK' in GB when the full individual country information is not available.

When full information is not available, the label must show:

  • origin: Non-UK (you can refer to non-EU until 30 September 2022)
  • slaughtered in: [name of non-EU country]
  • the reference number or code when the beef is cut or repackaged after import

For beef and veal, the label must record all of the following:

  • country of birth
  • country or countries of fattening
  • country of slaughter

If all these activities took place in a single country, the label 'Origin: [name of country]' is acceptable.

For the GB market, 'United Kingdom' is the origin label for beef and veal from both GB and NI, although additional information may be included if desired. The abbreviation 'UK' is permitted. For the NI and EU markets, 'UK(NI)' must be used to refer to NI origin.

Every batch of minced beef must come from animals which were slaughtered in the same country. This means GB and NI origin minced beef can continue to be batched together for sale on any market. They do not need to be separated into different retail packing batches.

Mixed (GB and NI) origin products must be labelled as 'UK/UK(NI)' for sale on the NI and EU market. This labelling is also acceptable on the GB market. If you're selling on the GB market, mixed (GB and NI) origin products only require 'UK', 'UK' or 'UK/UK(NI)' as their mandatory origin label.

The government recognises that businesses need time to adapt to these new labelling rules. It's working with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and district councils in NI on a pragmatic enforcement approach that takes these challenges into account. This approach is being implemented in a way which supports businesses as they adapt to the requirements over time.

Minced beef and veal labelling

You must label mince products made from different animals reared in different countries with:

  • a reference number or code that links the mince to the animal or group of animals it came from, or to the batches of meat used for mincing
  • the country where the mincing took place
  • all the countries where the animal or group of animals lived from birth to slaughter (if different from the country of mincing) - if all these countries are outside the UK, label the product 'Origin: non-UK'
  • the country of slaughter

GB and NI origin beef can continue to be batched together for sale on any market. They do not need to be separated into different retail packing batches.

Mixed (GB and NI) origin products should be labelled as 'UK(NI)/UK' for sale on any market (GB, NI or EU). If you're selling on the GB market alone, mixed (GB and NI) origin products can also be labelled as 'UK', although this is not valid for the NI or EU market.

Poultry, sheep, goats and swine meat labelling

You must label all unprocessed, pre-packaged poultry, sheep, goat and swine meat with the country of:

  • rearing - state 'reared in: [name of the country]'
  • slaughter - state 'slaughtered in: [name of the country]'

If poultry, sheep, goat or swine meat is taken from animals born, reared and slaughtered in the same country, you can label it as 'Origin: [name of the country]'.

Where reference is made to the country of birth, rearing, slaughter or 'origin' and that stage in production is in NI, the indication 'UK(NI)' must be used.

Batch codes

You must label all packs of poultry, sheep, goat and swine meat with a batch code identifying the meat.

You must make sure that the batch code showing the country of origin remains on the packaging at all stages of transport to the consumer.

Reared in labelling

You must tell the consumer which country the animal was reared in.

You must label your product with the statement, 'reared in: [name of the country]'.

Poultry

For poultry products, you must include on the label the country where:

  • the animal was reared for at least one month before slaughter
  • the animal was placed for fattening - if the animal was slaughtered before it was one month old

Swine

For swine products, you must include on the label the country where the:

  • animal was reared for the last 4 months before slaughter - if it was slaughtered after it was 6 months old
  • animal was reared after it weighed 30kg - if it was slaughtered before it was 6 months old and weighed more than 30kg at the time of slaughter
  • the animal was reared - if it was slaughtered before it was 6 months old and weighed less than 80kg at the time of slaughter

Sheep and goats

For sheep and goat products, you must include on the label the country where the:

  • last rearing period of 6 months took place - if the animal was slaughtered after it was 6 months old
  • whole rearing period took place - if the animal was slaughtered before it was 6 months old

Minced meat labelling (goat, sheep, swine and poultry)

You can use alternative labelling for mince instead of the full origin labelling in certain instances.

If the minced meat is from a batch of meat that's from multiple countries, label the product:

  • 'Origin: non-UK' if the countries do not include the UK
  • 'UK and non-UK' if the countries include the UK

Where reference is made to the country of birth, rearing, slaughter or 'origin' and that stage of production is in NI, use the indication 'UK(NI)'.

Minced meat sold in NI must refer to 'EU', 'non-EU' or 'EU and non-EU' as appropriate when the label does not list each country of origin.

Mixed (GB and NI) origin products should be labelled as 'UK(NI)/UK' for sale on any market (GB, NI or EU). If you're selling on the GB market alone, mixed (GB and NI) origin products can also be labelled as 'UK', although this is not valid for the NI or EU market.

For minced meat sold in GB, you can continue to refer to 'EU' and 'non-EU' until 30 September 2022.

From 1 October 2022, you must use 'non-UK' or 'UK and non-UK' when the label does not list each country of origin.

Fish and seafood labelling

You can only sell live, fresh or chilled products to the final consumer if they're labelled with the:

  • commercial and scientific name of the species
  • production method - use 'caught in', 'caught in freshwater' or 'farmed'
  • best before date
  • type of fishing gear used

If your fish product has previously been frozen and defrosted, you need to say this on the label.

Fish caught at sea

You must label all fish caught at sea with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) catch area.

You must also label fish caught in the Northeast Atlantic, Mediterranean or Black Sea with:

Freshwater fish

You must label all fish products caught in freshwater with the:

  • country they were caught in
  • name of the body of water (river or lake) they were caught in

Farmed fish

You must label all farmed fish products (aquaculture), except shellfish, with the country where they were harvested from the water when they reached their final size. For example, a fish farmed in France but harvested in Iceland, would be labelled 'Farmed Icelandic fish'.

You must label shellfish with the country where they were grown for a period of at least 6 months before they were harvested.

Mixed fish products

If you're selling mixed products of the same species but produced from different methods, you must display the production method for each batch.

If you're selling mixed products of the same species caught in different catch areas or fish-farming countries, the label must show:

  • the area or country of the batch that's more representative in terms of quantity
  • that products come from different areas or countries

Voluntary information

You can add other voluntary information to the label of your fish or seafood product. If you do this, the information must be:

  • clear
  • verifiable

Voluntary information must not get in the way of compulsory information.

Food business operators (FBOs) contacts

FBOs should contact their local:

If, as a consumer, you're worried about the labelling of a product, contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline.

Enforcement for label changes

See food labelling: giving food information to consumers for guidance on the enforcement approach in GB and NI for Brexit label changes.

First published 21 December 2020