Meat and milk origin labelling ‘should be mandatory’

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Mandatory origin labelling should be introduced for meat and milk in processed products, urge farming organisations
Mandatory origin labelling should be introduced for meat and milk in processed products, urge farming organisations

Related tags Origin labelling United kingdom Protected geographical status

The government should introduce mandatory origin labelling for meat and milk in processed products, urges a group of farming organisations.

The move “would give shoppers more choice and confidence when buying British food and increase transparency in the supply chain”,​ according to a letter to environment secretary Andrea Leadsom, signed by the National Farmers Union (NFU), NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the National Pig Association.

Their letter also highlighted concerns over the loss of food name protection as the UK negotiates a new deal with the EU post-Brexit.

The organisations said in a joint statement: “More needs to be done to make labelling clearer and all our organisations lobby hard on this issue.”

The French government was said to be implementing a two-year trial of country of origin labelling for meat and milk in processed products. Other European governments had outlined plans to implement country of origin labelling for processed foods, it was claimed.

‘Meat and milk in processed products’

“We believe that the UK government should move now to introduce origin labelling for meat and milk in processed products which would provide greater transparency,”​ wrote the organisations.

“With the Brexit negotiations on the horizon, this could be the start of strong national legislation to ensure we have clear country of origin labelling in the future.”

The groups acknowledged some manufacturers and retailers believed specifying origin was important, demonstrated by their “going above what is required in law” ​and through voluntary principles.

But the inconsistency of voluntary commitment can confuse shoppers, warned the organisations.

“We know more British people want more British food on their plates,”​ highlighted the letter. “A survey carried out by the NFU in May 2016 found that 60% of the public often or always look specifically for British produce when shopping for food.”

Consumers can make an informed choice

The food industry should build on what had been achieved by the Red Tractor logo to showcase British products to shoppers through mandatory country of origin labelling. That labelling should provide accurate, clear and relevant information so consumers could make an informed choice, it was said.

“It’s important to also stress that that we do want to see the continued use of food name protections in the UK that guarantees authenticity and origin and prevents imitation products from using the name.”​ said the letter.

“This includes some of the UK's most famous foods such as Stilton cheese, West Country beef and lamb, Scotch beef and lamb and Welsh beef and lamb.”

The use of the European Protected Geographical Indication, Protected Designation of Origin and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed have been vital in protecting food provenance in the marketplace, said the organisations.

Meanwhile, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted in May to make country of origin labelling (COOL) mandatory for meat and milk​. The MEPs voted in favour of the move in a non­-binding resolution on Thursday, May 12.

They voted by 422 votes to 159, with 68 abstentions to call for better information to be provided to EU consumers.

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