Coronavirus: Marketing food products directly to consumers

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With the uncertainty surrounding the outbreak of COVID-19 many NFU members have been enquiring about directly marketing their products to consumers. This article aims to highlight some of the key regulations that may need to be complied with, and to sign post members to where they may be able to find out further information. This briefing does not contain an exhaustive list of the relevant regulations that may apply to you if you choose to sell your produce directly to consumers, so it is important that you take the time to understand the relevant requirements for your specific business.

Food hygiene

The EU Food Hygiene Regulations apply to all stages of the food chain, including primary production. The objective of the regulations is “to ensure a high level of consumer protection with regard to food safety”.

Food businesses must register with the competent authority under the regulations. Farmers and growers already registered will not have to re-register, but if your business changes in terms of the foods it produces, you should contact your local authority so that records can be updated. The premises of businesses producing products from animal origin may need to be approved by their local authority. There may be an exemption from the requirement to be approved if you only sell direct to the public, or there may be an exemption depending on the extent to which you wish to supply another business with foods from animal origin. You should contact your local authority to determine whether you can claim an exemption.

There are two main pieces of hygiene regulation, the first regulation (Regulation (EC) 852/2004 ) sets out general requirements for all food businesses, which includes requirements for rooms, transporting foods, personal hygiene, etc. This regulation also requires appropriate food safety procedures based on HACCP principles for food business activities beyond primary production.

NFU business guide – an introduction to hazard analysis for food businesses

Regulation (EC) 853/2004 relates to specific requirements for products from an animal origin. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has produced a detailed guide to food hygiene and other regulations, requirements, and best practices for the UK Meat Industry, which can be found here. There is also specific guidance available for those selling raw cows’ milk, which can be found here.

There are exemptions to these two hygiene regulations. The 852/2004 regulation does not apply to “the direct supply, by the producer, of small quantities of primary products to the final consumer or to local retail establishments supplying the final consumer”. The 853/2004 regulation does not apply to “direct supply, by the producer, of small quantities of meat from poultry and lagomorphs slaughtered on the farm”. For further definitions please see the NFU business guide on the EU food hygiene regulations.

For further guidance on food hygiene for your business click here.

Food labelling

Food labelling is regulated to provide consumers with clear, accurate information on the food they purchase. These rules apply to you if you operate a food business.

General food labelling requirements for pre-packaged food include:

  • name of the food
  • list of ingredients
  • allergens
  • quantity of certain ingredients or categories of ingredients
  • net quantity of the food
  • date of minimum durability or the ‘use by’ date
  • special storage conditions and/or conditions of use
  • name or business name and address of the food business operator
  • country of origin or place of provenance
  • instructions for use where required
  • the alcohol strength
  • nutritional declaration

Government guidance can be found here.

The rules for selling non-prepacked food are less onerous than those for pre-packed food, and include name of the food, allergens, and declarations of certain ingredients, further details can be found here. If you are selling food products on to other businesses, you must pass on certain information so that whoever is selling the food product on to the final consumer has all the information they need to provide.

Food labelling and composition

Some products (such as eggs, poultry meat, beef, fruit and vegetables) have regulatory marketing standards to help maintain the standards of product in order to take into account the expectations of the consumer. For certain sectors specific marketing standards lay out definitions, designations, sales descriptions, classification criteria (such as grading into classes), presentation, labelling and packaging of a product. Marketing standards could also include the requirements that need to be met in order to be labelled a certain type of production, for example free range eggs.

Certain foods have ‘reserved descriptions’ which requires a product to have a certain composition. For example a product labelled ‘beef burger’ must contain at least 62% beef. Foods that have compositional requirements include bread and flour, meat and meat products, and milk and milk products. A guide to compositional standards can be found here.

For further questions contact NFU CallFirst on 0370 845 8458.

Coronavirus: Updates and advice

This news hub on NFUonline will be updated regularly to keep you up to date with what you need to know and how to deal with the various issues raised by coronavirus. Visit the hub.


Click here to use the NFU's COVID-19 business impact service.

By using this form, farmers and growers can provide information on any business-critical issues they have encountered, or expect to encounter, arising from the COVID-19 outbreak. The NFU will log this information and use it in an anonymised format to flag the key issues agriculture and horticulture are facing to government on a daily basis. However, no personal data will be shared with the government. The service is for all farmers and growers across the UK.

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