French new packaging regulation requires on-pack recycling logo and QR code

FRANCE – The French authorities have updated packaging rules requiring an on-pack recycling logo and QR code for all food and drinks sold in the country.

The new regulation means from March that any business selling food and drink to French supermarkets must add a new recycling logo to labels, as well as a QR code that gives shoppers detailed packaging and recycling information.

The law officially started in September. However, a grace period is in effect until March. Stock that is non-compliant during the grace period can still be sold now but will be removed from shelves in March.

The law applies to all food and drinks sold in the country including exports from other countries.

The French government initially warned British exporters of the new rules in October last year, according to the trade department.

“We have taken several steps to ensure UK firms and business groups were made aware of these changes, including a dedicated webinar in November and various other communication through DIT [department for international trade] channels,” said a government spokesman.

“We offer a wide range of tools and services to ensure that businesses get the advice they need to export around the world and urge any businesses who think they may be affected by these changes to contact our Export Support Service for tailored advice.”

The new rule got many exporters unprepared. As reported by the Grocer, British food exporters are “petrified” over upcoming French packaging rules that could mean they are hit with fines worth tens of thousands of euros.

Many exporters are said to be scrambling to meet the new requirements to avoid fines of up to €15,000 per product line.

“Companies are not on top of the regulation and they don’t realize that they face fines or removal of stock from the sale,” said Kevin Dixie, COO of Buyerdock, a food-tech company providing labeling solutions to UK exporters.

Dixie also reported speaking to many brands, “almost none” of which were aware of the rules. Buyerdock has been working with the trade department to inform companies of its service, which charges brands £1 per line per month for the necessary logo and QR code.

The new rule is the second regulatory change to have hit exporters to Europe this year. Since 13 January, shelf-stable composite food products like canned custard and confectionery have required French versions of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) documents or else risk being rejected at the border.

However, despite fears ahead of the change, customs agents report it has caused minimal disruption to trade.

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