Guidance

Food labelling: country of origin

Find out when you must label your meat, fish or seafood product with its country of origin.

You must label your meat, fish or seafood product with its country or place of origin if you’re selling it to the final consumer or mass caterer.

A catering establishment is a place where food is prepared ready for immediate consumption, such as:

  • restaurants
  • canteens
  • clubs
  • pubs
  • schools
  • hospitals
  • public food sellers including a vehicle or fixed or mobile stall

Beef and veal labelling

You must label all chilled and frozen beef and veal, including minced beef and veal, with the:

  • reference number or code linking the meat to the animal or group of animals it came from
  • EU member state or non-EU country of birth
  • EU member state or non-EU country of rearing
  • EU member state or non-EU country of slaughter
  • EU member state or non-EU country of cutting
  • approval numbers of the slaughterhouse and cutting plant(s)

If you don’t have all this information for non-EU meat, your label must state:

  • origin: Non-EU
  • slaughtered in: [name of non-EU country]
  • the reference number or code when the beef is cut or repackaged after import

If meat is taken from animals born, reared and slaughtered in the same country, your label must state: “Origin: [name of country]”.

Mince labelling (excluding beef and veal)

You must label mince products made from different animals reared in different countries with:

  • a reference number or code that links the mince to the animal or group of animals it came from, or to the batches of meat used for mincing
  • the country where the mincing took place
  • all the countries where the animal or group of animals lived from birth to slaughter (if different from the country of mincing) - if all these countries are outside the EU, label the product “Origin: non-EU”
  • the country of slaughter

Poultry, sheep, goats and swine meat labelling

You must label all unprocessed, pre-packaged poultry, sheep, goat and swine meat with the country of:

  • rearing - state “reared in: [EU member state or non-EU country]”
  • slaughter - state “slaughtered in: [EU member state or non-EU country]”

If poultry, sheep, goat or swine meat is taken from animals born, reared and slaughtered in the same country you can label it as “Origin: [EU member state or non-EU country]”.

Batch codes

You must label all packs of poultry, sheep, goat and swine meat with a batch code identifying the meat.

You must make sure that the batch code showing the country of origin remains on the packaging at all stages of transport to the consumer.

Reared in labelling

You must tell the consumer which EU member state or non-EU country the animal was reared in.

You must label your product with the statement, “reared in: [EU member state or non-EU country]”.

Poultry

For poultry products you must include on the label the EU member state or non-EU country where:

  • the animal was reared for at least one month before slaughter
  • the animal was placed for fattening - if the animal was slaughtered before it was one month old

Swine

For swine products you must include on the label the EU member state or non-EU country where the:

  • animal was reared for the last 4 months before slaughter - if it was slaughtered after it was 6 months old
  • animal was reared after it weighed 30kg - if it was slaughtered before it was 6 months old and weighed more than 30kg at the time of slaughter
  • the animal was reared - if it was slaughtered before it was 6 months old and weighed less than 80kg at the time of slaughter

Sheep and goats

For sheep and goat products you must include on the label the EU member state or non-EU country where the:

  • last rearing period of 6 months took place - if the animal was slaughtered after it was 6 months old
  • whole rearing period took place - if the animal was slaughtered before it was 6 months old

Fish and seafood labelling

You can only sell live, fresh or chilled products to the final consumer if they’re labelled with the:

  • commercial and scientific name of the species
  • production method - use “caught in”, “caught in freshwater” or “farmed”
  • best before date
  • type of fishing gear used

If your fish product has previously been frozen and defrosted, you need to say this on the label.

Fish caught at sea

You must label all fish caught at sea with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) catch area.

You must also label fish caught in the Northeast Atlantic, Mediterranean or Black Sea with:

Freshwater fish

You must label all fish products caught in freshwater with the:

  • country they were caught in
  • name of the body of water (river or lake) they were caught in

Farmed fish

You must label all farmed fish products (aquaculture), except shellfish, with the country where they were harvested from the water when they reached their final size.

For example, a fish farmed in France but harvested in Iceland, would be labelled “Farmed Icelandic fish”.

You must label shellfish with the country where they were grown for a period of at least 6 months before they were harvested.

Mixed fish products

If you’re selling mixed products of the same species but produced from different methods then you must display the production method for each batch.

If you’re selling mixed products of the same species caught in different catch areas or fish-farming countries the label must show:

  • the area or country of the batch that is more representative in terms of quantity
  • that products come from different areas or countries

Voluntary information

You can add other voluntary information to the label of your fish or seafood product. If you do this, the information must be:

  • clear
  • verifiable

Voluntary information must not get in the way of compulsory information.

Food business operators (FBOs) contacts

FBOs should contact their local:

If, as a consumer you’re worried about the labelling of a product, contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline.

Published 20 April 2017