In calling for stronger country of origin labelling (COOL) on the front-of-pack of processed meat products such as bacon and ham sold in both in retail and foodservice, Mick Sloyan, strategy director for AHDB Pork, said consumers wanted clear and transparent COOL.
He cited one example of a foodservice bulk-pack of sliced ham for sandwiches labelled as ‘Wiltshire-cured ham’ with a Union Jack and a stamp from the manufacturer stating it was ‘produced in the UK’.
“And in very small letters at the bottom it says made from EU pork; because it is Spanish – it’s where the pork comes from,” said Sloyan.
Practices are currently illegal
However, Trading Standards has confirmed that such practices are currently legal, he added.
“To make informed choices about the food that they buy, consumers need clear, honest and unambiguous labelling,” said Sloyan at a conference on food labelling legislation, organised by the Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum in London last month.
Sloyan referred to a YouGov poll, that found 40% of consumers said COOL was important to them, while 30% said “locally produced” supplies of food were also important.
“When you take it down to a question of hierarchy, actually knowing the origin comes third after price and quality in relation to meat,” he said.
‘Question of hierarchy’
“It’s also important to many retailers and they do it in servicing the interests of their consumers,” he added.
“Eight out of the 10 major retailers in this country have a policy on fresh meat that is 100% British.
“The two that don’t are quite large, in the shape of Tesco and Asda. But the remainder do and that includes several discounters.”
Sloyan added that COOL was also important for UK pig producers in communicating to consumers the higher standards of animal welfare in this country.