Tim Russ, a partner in the Roythornes Solicitors food and drink team, said that the proposal from the British Veterinary Association (BVA) could be impossible to police.
The BVA has suggested that method of production labelling would provide consumers with clear information on animal welfare, and could offer British farmers a unique selling point post-Brexit.
It argued that this would be an extension of legislation that had been implemented already for shell eggs, which must legally be labelled either as ‘eggs from caged hens’, ‘barn eggs’, ‘free range’ or ‘organic’.
Make changes to food labels
The calls follow the Brexit vote on June 23, which has raised the possibility in several quarters that an EU exit might provide an opportunity for the UK to make changes to food labels.
However, post-Brexit life could become more – rather than less – complicated if British food manufacturers have to follow different UK and EU labelling requirements, said Russ.
“Animal welfare is a very important issue and at first sight this is an appealing idea,” he said. “However, it would create many practical challenges for food producers.
‘Often sourced internationally’
“The reality of the modern food industry is that meat and dairy products are often sourced internationally.
“So it’s possible that a pack of chicken thighs may include poultry from several sources. Equally, a yogurt product may be made with milk from several sources and a sausage might include pork from several countries.”
Russ added that, while reputable companies have full traceability for their ingredients, reproducing information about the welfare standards of all dairy and meat ingredients on a label would be “time consuming and expensive”.
“Food labelling is already a challenging issue for many businesses and additional obligations would add more complexity with little consumer benefit,” he added.