Food labelling and packaging for export and import

Meat labelling rules in Northern Ireland and European Union

Guide

The EU law that continues to apply to Northern Ireland after 1 January 2021 is specified in Annex II to the Northern Ireland Protocol. Food and feed products produced in NI or placed on the NI market need to comply with EU food law. See the latest EU Exit guidance for the food and drink sector.

Traders must comply with extra food labelling systems, health marks and Quantitative Ingredient Declarations (QUIDs) for goods that will be consumed in NI and the European Union (EU). Read about QUID marks in food labelling in Northern Ireland and European Union.

Health marks are applied to red meat carcasses and wholesale cuts to show that they are fit for human consumption. They are also an important way to ensure that meat products are traceable, so that if a food safety emergency occurs, problems can be quickly traced and, if necessary, foods withdrawn from the market. The health mark indicates that red meat carcasses and wholesale cuts have been subject to pre- and post-mortem inspection and are fit for human consumption at the time of inspection.

The health mark itself is an oval mark at least 6.5 centimetres by 4.5 centimetres high, and lists the following information in clearly legible type:

  • the country in which the establishment that prepared the meat (slaughterhouse) is located
  • the approval number of the slaughterhouse

The health mark may also include an indication of the official veterinarian who carried out the health inspection of the meat.

Other meat products that do not require a health mark are given an identification mark or 'ID mark' indicating their origin. The identification mark, applied by the food business operator, indicates that white meat, all cut meat and processed meat has been produced in accordance with the legal requirements. It should include the country of origin, the name of the establishment where the product was made and its approval number. Unlike health marks, ID marks do not indicate that any health inspection has been carried out.

Products of animal origin cannot be sold in Northern Ireland or the EU without either a health mark or an identification mark.

Health and identification marks after 1 January 2021

The Food Standards Agency has produced guidance on the health and identification marks that must be applied to food products of animal origin (POAO) - such as meat, egg products, fish, cheese and milk - after the end of the EU transition period. See guidance on health and identification marks that applies from 1 January 2021.

You can also read about beef and veal marketing standards from 1 January 2021poultry meat marketing standards from 1 January 2021 and egg marketing standards from 1 January 2021