Legal Brief

Four laws to keep an eye on in 2024

By Katrina Anderson

- Last updated on GMT

Legal expert Katrina Anderson highlights UK regulation to be aware of this year. Credit: Getty/Jonathan Knowles
Legal expert Katrina Anderson highlights UK regulation to be aware of this year. Credit: Getty/Jonathan Knowles

Related tags Regulation

Katrina Anderson, commercial and regulatory lawyer and associate director at international legal practice, Osborne Clarke, highlights several regulations to be mindful of this new year.

New regulation is coming thick and fast. Some of it is designed specifically for food manufacturers. Other regulations have a wider reach, for example consumer protection regulations or e-commerce regulations. But these are nonetheless relevant to many food businesses operating in the UK and Europe.

1. Devolved nations discrepancies in junk food restrictions

To combat childhood obesity, the UK Government introduced new restrictions on promotion, location and advertising of foods which are high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS). What has flown (somewhat) under the radar is that food is devolved competency in the UK political system. Therefore, much of the new HFSS legislation only applies in England or England and Wales.

The Welsh government has confirmed there will be a new law on promotion restrictions with enforcement occurring in 2025. The Scottish government has also announced that it will consult on HFSS ban on promotions, to be introduced in 2025 at the earliest. At least some of the Scottish proposals are significantly different in some respects from the laws passed by Westminster.

Looking to the future, food businesses in different parts of the UK may need to apply different rules in relation to the marketing, advertising and sale of HFSS products.

2. Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill

Businesses operating a subscription model should be aware of the UK's Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer (DMCC) Bill which will create new rules governing subscriptions. The DMCC Bill creates a new regime that gives additional cooling off rights to consumers who are offered free trials and mandates a so-called ‘nutritional information’ style summary of the subscription that needs to be shared prepurchase. Further, the legislation follows Germany and France by introducing a form of ‘cancellation buttons’ to make cancellation as easy as signing up.

3. European Accessibility Act

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is another upcoming regulation that businesses based in the EU (or have an audience based in the EU) should take note of.  The main aim of the EAA is to enhance the ability of individuals with disabilities to access goods and services within the EU including in relation to e-commerce. Businesses that fall in scope must ensure compliance with the EEA by 28 June 2025.

4. Novel foods and gene editing

The deregulation of novel foods and gene editing is set to transform the future of the food industry in 2024. In the UK, newly developed foods (often produced using new technology or processes) as well as food which is or has been traditionally eaten outside of the EU/UK before 15 May 1997, are known as 'novel foods'.

To launch a novel food in the UK, it must pass the approval process governed by the Food Standards Authority (FSA). Earlier this year, the UK government commissioned research into novel food regulation, with an aim to reform the process and reduce barriers to bringing such foods to market.  We expect to see the first steps towards a new streamlined process to become apparent in 2024.

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