Speaking at a seminar on COOL hosted by Campden BRI, BPEX (British Pig Executive) boss Mick Sloyan said he was pleased with the progress made to date given that the code had only been formally launched in June.
Firms that sign up must be fully compliant by January 1, 2011.
A benchmark study of labelling on pork and pork products was being undertaken this month and would be followed by a second study in the New Year to check compliance with the code and encourage more firms to sign up, said Sloyan.
Anecdotal evidence suggested that COOL labelling on fresh pork was “more or less there” he said. However, labelling on some other products, notably ham, was “dreadful”.
The code was drawn up by a sub group of the Pig Supply Chain Task Force comprising producers, processors, retailers, caterers, the Food Standards Agency, LACORS, consumer groups and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, and covers pork, ham, bacon, sausages and pork pies.
‘Produced in the UK’
Under the code, the term ‘Produced in the UK' cannot be used without qualification of the origin of the pork, while imagery such as the union jack or phrases such as ‘Great British Classics’ should only be used on pigmeat products originating in the UK, said Sloyan.
“It was clear that the phrase ‘Produced in the UK' was being used somewhat creatively.”
Initiatives such as the EU protected names scheme, meanwhile, did not always send out a clear message to consumers, he suggested.
For example, few consumers probably realised that products with PGI (protected geographical indication) status such as Melton Mowbray pork pies, only had to be processed in the specified region, and did not have to contain meat from the region or even the country in question, he noted.
Under the new code of practice, firms would need to use a phrase such as ‘Melton Mowbray pork pie made from French pork’, he said.
In all cases, firms should make it clear where their pork came from, using phrases such as: ‘Produced in the UK using pork from Germany’, ‘Packed in the UK using pork from the Netherlands’ or ‘Made with pork from a number of EU countries’.
Level playing field
The UK pig industry had been operating at a disadvantage in recent years owing to the disparity between welfare standards in the UK and Continental Europe, added Sloyan.
However, as Continental rivals became subject to stricter welfare standards due to come into force in 2013, the price differential with UK producers would narrow, he said.
“I don’t think we’ll get back up to 15.5m pigs, which is where we were in 1998, but I can see us gaining some market share back again as I suspect some producers will withdraw from the market.”
Click here to find out more about the pigmat COOL code of practice.