Food labelling and packaging for export and import

Meat labelling rules in Northern Ireland and European Union

Guide

The UK has left the EU. From 1 January 2021, certain requirements around food labelling will change. Some areas of this guidance will be affected by EU Exit and may no longer apply.

For current information, read about food and drink labelling changes from 1 January 2021, trading and labelling organic food from 1 January 2021 and food labelling: country of origin.

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are traceable, so that if a food safety emergency occurs, problems can be quickly traced and, if necessary, foods withdrawn from the market.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 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