Regulatory Outlook

Food Law | UK Regulatory Outlook October 2023

Published on 31st Oct 2023

FSA Board discusses and plans approach on precision breeding | Consultation launched for updating labelling guidance for no and low-alcohol alternatives | Reforms to the wine sector to begin in 2024

FSA Board discusses and plans approach on precision breeding

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) Board met on 21 September 2023 to discuss and decide on aspects of the new process to regulate the use of precision-bred organisms for use in food and feed. Following agreement on the FSA Board's preferred approach, the proposals will be subject to public consultation in November 2023 before the FSA formally provides advice to ministers.

For further information, please see our previous Regulatory Outlook.

Consultation launched for updating labelling guidance for no and low-alcohol alternatives

The government has launched a consultation seeking views on whether to raise the threshold set out in guidance for describing a drink as "alcohol free" to 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV). The current threshold in the UK is 0.05%.

The main aim of updating the low-alcohol descriptions is to encourage more people to choose no and low-alcohol drinks to help shift the market to "healthier" alternatives. Views are also being sought on whether to update labelling guidelines, so that manufacturers display the alcohol percentage on any no or low-alcohol product clearly on the bottle.

The consultation is specifically interested in seeking views and evidence on:

  • using descriptors such as "alcohol free", "de-alcoholised", "non-alcoholic" and "low alcohol" and whether such conditions should be set in regulations;
  • displaying numerical information of the alcoholic strength on the label;
  • displaying the UK chief medical officers’ low risk drinking guidelines on the label and alternative ways of communicating this information to consumers; and
  • displaying an age restriction on alcohol-free or low-alcohol (NoLo) products and alternative options for preventing children and young people from accessing and consuming NoLo drinks.

The consultation closes on 23 November 2023.

Reforms to the wine sector to begin in 2024

Following a public consultation, the government has set out reforms for the wine sector which will begin in 2024. Changes will include:

  • Ending the mandatory use of mushroom-shaped stopper and foil sheaths on sparkling wine, reducing unnecessary waste and packaging costs for consumers.
  • Ending rules on bottle shapes giving producers the freedom to use bottle shapes they could not previously use for their wines.
  • Ending the requirement for imported wines to have a named importer on the label. This is intended to create more frictionless trade and reduce administrative burdens. This will also mean that only the Food Business Operator (FBO) responsible for the food information will need to be identified on packaging.
  • Producers will now have the option to apply to protect designations of origin and geographical indications for wines produced using hybrid varieties of grapes. This is intended to increase options for consumers and increase the resilience of the grapes (and wine produced) in the face of climate change and disease.
  • Ending the ban on the blending (coupage) of imported wines. Blending is a commonplace practice around the world and this is intended to offer scope to develop a wider variety of wines while expanding consumer choice.
  • Allowing producers to now make and market piquette (a lower-alcohol drink produced by rinsing the by-products of wine production, including grape skins and stalks, with water and fermenting that rinse). This is intended to open new income streams for wine producers and help to meet demand for lower-alcohol drinks.

Updated guidance on promotions of HFSS products

The government has updated the guidance on restricting promotions of products high in fat, sugar or salt by location and by volume price to provide reflect the new implementation date of the volume price promotion restrictions, which will come into force on 1 October 2025.

The transition period for promotions on packaging is until 30 September 2026. A reminder that all location restrictions have come into force (since 1 October 2022).

For further information please see our previous Regulatory Outlook.

FSA update on tackling food crime from the Food Fraud Working Group

The FSA, in collaboration with representatives of the food industry, has published a stakeholder message setting out proposals from the Food Fraud Working Group.

These proposals have the aim of strengthening the response to food crime and include various suggestions such as launching a new freephone food fraud hotline, working with the industry on ways to encourage food fraud whistleblowing, and strengthening information sharing arrangements between food businesses' third-party auditors and the FSA.

The FSA has also published two research reports on the estimated cost of food crime in the UK, and another on ways to prevent food fraud.

FSA updates consumer advice for CBD

On 12 October 2023, the FSA has issued new advice on cannabidiol (CBD), recommending that healthy adults should limit their consumption of CBD from food to 10mg per day (around four to five drops of 5% CBD oil). The previous recommended intake published in February 2020 was 70mg of CBD per day.

The FSA stated that the change in advice was based on new evidence from the industry and the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods & Process' new position paper also published on the same day. It was previously reported that the FSA will not be able to sign off CBD products until at least 2024.

In the interim, the current grace period for enforcement applies to CBD products that have submitted a valid novel foods application and appear on the FSA list.

FSA consultation on Food Contact Materials Regulations

The FSA launched a consultation seeking views on the post-implementation of the Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (England) Regulations 2012, and whether the objectives of the regulations were achieved and remain relevant.

It also looks at whether there have been any unintended effects on stakeholders' and consumers' perspectives on the regulations.

The closing date for the consultation is 9 November 2023.

EU Parliament issues briefing on proposed legislation to regulate plants produced by certain new genomic techniques

The European Commission is proposing a new legal framework for plants obtained by certain new genomic techniques (NGTs) such as genome editing and the food and feed produced from them.

The European Parliament has now released a briefing that provides an initial analysis of Commission's impact assessment and proposal, arguing that the existing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) legislation is not fit for purpose for plants, and splits the problem into three components:

  • the current GMO authorisation procedure and risk assessment are not adapted to NGT products;
  • the current GMO legislation raises implementation and enforcement challenges for certain NGTs; and
  • the current GMO legislation is not conducive to innovation.

The adopted act is currently open for feedback until 5 November 2023.

FoodDrinkEurope supports proposals to remove PFAS from food contact materials

FoodDrinkEurope, an industry representative of European food and drinks companies, has confirmed their support and published their key recommendations on proposals to remove per-and-polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food contact. Key messages include:

  • any restrictions of PFAS from use in food contact should provide for a controlled and organised assessment of use, presence, alternatives and removal across sectors;
  • any substitutions of PFAS in food contact should not put food production, food safety, or food security at risk;
  • any restrictions of PFAS from use in food contact need to be complemented with actions to mitigate the occurrence of PFAS in the environment and in the agri-food chain.

For further information please see our previous Regulatory Outlook.

Follow

View the full Regulatory Outlook

Interested in hearing more? expand to read the other articles in our Regulatory Outlook series

View the full Regulatory Outlook

Regulatory law affects all businesses. Osborne Clarke’s updated Regulatory Outlook provides you with high level summaries of important forthcoming regulatory developments to help in-house lawyers, compliance professionals and directors navigate the fast-moving business compliance landscape in the UK.

Expand

* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

Interested in hearing more from Osborne Clarke?