It’s fair to say that local food is big business. Farmer’s markets, farm shops, artisan pies, craft beers and local cheeses…all have experienced a surge in growth over the last ten years, no doubt helped along by social media spreading the word via Facebook and Twitter.
So it’s tempting for an agricultural business to grab a slice of the pie, both in the real, and the financial sense. Why not add value to your beef by selling pasties in the farm shop? Or how about turning your kale into a trendy smoothie at the farmer’s market?
Some new EU legislation which came into force in December 2016 might make business owners pause and consider whether there is anything they need to do, apart from the obvious food safety and hygiene requirements. Food labelling requirements have undergone major changes with the introduction of the Provision of Food Information Consumers Regulation (the ‘FIC’), which provides that provision of nutrition information is has been compulsory from 13 December 2016. In other words, anyone, whether an individual, small farm, large agricultural business or multi-national company, who produces food must put a nutrition declaration on the pack, showing calories, carbohydrate, fat, salt and protein. There are laboratories who specialise in testing food so these labels can be produced, but this obviously comes at a cost.
So, should farmers assume that the new labelling laws mean that it’s too much trouble to sell their food to the public? Not necessarily, as there are some exemptions which will help them. Exemptions are for minimally processed food such as meat (but not meat products such as sausages and pies, although see the exemptions below), herbs and honey, very small packets of food and alcoholic drinks.
There is also an exemption for businesses with a turnover of less than £1.4M where food is supplied direct to the consumer, (this would cover farmers’ markets), and where these smaller businesses supply food to the consumer via a third party, if this third party is a ‘local retail establishment supplying direct to the consumer’, such as a farm shop. There are special rules which define what ‘local’ means in this context. It’s also worth taking care that you are not caught by the labelling regulations where the whole farm has a turnover of more than £1.4 million, but only a small part of the business deals with food production, as the exemptions for smaller businesses won’t apply.
If you are in any doubt about whether the regulations apply to your business, please contact us and we will be happy to help.
Author, Laura Clarke, Head of Food and Drink, WBW Solicitors