Food labelling and packaging in international trade

Meat labelling rules in the in the UK and European Union

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

The following guidelines apply only to imports into England and Wales. Scottish importers should contact Scotland's Environmental and Rural Services on Tel 08452 30 20 50, while those from Northern Ireland should contact their local district council.

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are traceable, so that if a food safety emergency occurs, problems can be quickly traced and, if necessary, foods withdrawn from the market.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 the EU without either a health mark or an identification mark.