Country of Origin labelling (COOL) is set to come into force from 2014, under the new EU Food Information Regulation (FIR). It states that most fresh and frozen meat must be labelled with its country of origin, and the origin of the main ingredient of the product must also be stated if different.
This creates a potentially embarrassing situation where an EU designated ‘regional’ product, with protected geographical indication (PGI) status, such as a Cornish Pasty or a Melton Mowbray Pork Pie might have to reveal on its packaging that its main ingredient is sourced from outside the UK.
The issue has come to light after the Provision Trade Federation asked the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) how COOL legislation would marry with existing labelling law on regional food products that have been awarded PGI or protected designations of origin (PDO).
In response, DEFRA said manufacturers of regional designated products would not be exempt from COOL.
Giving the example of Melton Mowbray pork pies, it said: “The sources of the ingredients of a Melton Mowbray (PGI) pork pie are not specified – only the place of production. Pork is a primary ingredient of the pork pie, so the provision applies, and the country of origin (of the pork) should be given. The consumer choosing this product does not yet have the information on country of origin so this needs to be given additionally.”
Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association chairman Matthew O’Callaghan told Foodmanufacture.co.uk that all members of his Association already used British meat in their products.
He said: “When we went for PGI we wanted to specify British pork, but we were told that this was not possible under PGI. One of the guidelines for members of our Association is that they must use British meat, although there are Melton Mowbray Pork Pie producers who are not members of the Association and do not use British meat.”
Welcome for legislation
O’Callaghan added that he welcomed the COOL legislation: “You find things that come into this country for one day being labelled ‘British’.”
The EU can award three different types of protection to regional foods: protected designation of origin (PDO); protected geographical indication (PGI); and traditional speciality guaranteed (TSG). Manufacturers from outside a region are not allowed to use the registered term.
UK registered products include Traditional Cumberland Sausage (PGI), Stilton Blue and White Cheeses (PDO) and Kentish Ale (PGI).