Food manufacturers and retailers should use clearer labelling to specify country-of-origin and end consumer confusion, says the the National Farmers Union (NFU), which has launched a Flag It Facebook campaign to highlight its message.
NFU director of corporate affairs Tom Hind said: “The idea behind the Flag It campaign is to get as many retailers [and manufacturers] as possible to ensure that labelling, especially on own-brand products, is crystal clear, so consumers know what they are getting.”
Ruth Mason, food chain advisor at the NFU, said shoppers wanted to buy British, but were frustrated by poor labelling. “Our research shows that consumers want to know if products are British or not. It also shows they felt current labels needs to be clearer. Retailers and manufacturers need to adapt to consumers demands and play their part in providing them with the service they require.”
The NFU claimed that most dairy labels showed only where a product has been packaged and not where the milk had been sourced. It believed this has led many consumers into thinking they are buying British products when they are not.
“While genuine improvements have been made in labelling over the past few years, there are still examples where labels on many products are not clear and can confuse consumers into thinking that they are buying British produce when they are not.”
The NFU also said it would like to see the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs “tighten up” its voluntary code on country of origin labelling.
The Flag It campaign followings a survey by the NFU which revealed 83% of consumers think country-of-origin labelling could be clearer.
NFU research showed the majority of people surveyed would choose to buy products that have clear country-of-origin labels over ones that are unclear as to where the ingredients have come from.
Before launching the campaign the NFU raised concerns with a number of retailers. Most of which said they would take the products under review.
Tesco, however, is already in the process of changing its Everyday Value cheddar cheese labels to ensure consumers receive clear information as a result of the NFU’s concerns.
Hind said: "We are really pleased to have been able to work collaboratively with Tesco in the development of a new label for its Everyday Value cheddar cheese, and we hope that other retailers will ensure labels provide clear information for customers.
"That's why we want the public to be alert and let us know when packaging on products is unclear, so we can highlight these to the retailer and ask for it to be changed.”
Meanwhile, Tesco was forced to remove a sign promoting the sale of 100% British meat last month, after Cornish farmer Matt Watson Smyth proved the meat in-store was not all British. For more, click here.
Food label confusion
- Asda smart price cheese states only where the product is packed. Not included on the label is where the milk is sourced.
- Farmfoods cheese labels show the product as being packed in the UK. No mention is made of where the product is produced or where the milk is sourced.
- The Everyday value Tesco pack does not state where the product is produced or where the milk is sourced. It only states where the product is packed.