May 31, 2011


England's meat and dairy goods to have special labels



Westcountry's meat and dairy products could soon be indicated by unique labels.


The move would be an extension to a voluntary code to ensure accurate country-of-origin labelling on all food and drink.


For years, the region's beef, lamb and dairy producers have been seeking special protected status for their products, together with areas of supermarkets dedicated to local produce, similar to those found in France.


The question of a European Protected Geographical Indicator (PGI) for Westcountry meat is subject to an extended consultation by the organisation responsible for its application, Meat South West.


South Hams beef producer Richard Haddock, former chairman of the National Farmers' Union livestock board, said, "We would like to brand our meat classed as Westcountry and we need a PGI for that."


The majority of meat and dairy products now feature information on where their ingredients came from or where they were produced, according to research announced by Farming Minister Jim Paice.


The survey looked at labels on more than 500 meat and dairy products purchased from the major retailers and a number of independent shops. It is the first evaluation of country-of-origin labelling since the food industry put in place voluntary standards to provide clearer information to consumers last November.


All butter in the survey was labelled with either the origin of the milk or the place where it was manufactured, or both, while 77% of cheese showed the origin of the milk or the place it was manufactured.


For liquid milk, 86% of products sampled had some form of origin labelling, with half of all milk showing the origin of the milk, while just over a third showed where it was manufactured.


But with fresh cream, a third of products showed no origin statement, and only one sample in six showed where the milk came from, with half showing where it was manufactured.


All retailers' own-label liquid milk included a statement about where the milk came from, while 59% of branded milk met the same standards.


For bacon, sausages and other lightly processed meat products, 82% had some form of origin labelling, with 67% providing information on the origin of the meat ingredient, and 15% only listing where the product was manufactured. Nearly one in five did not include any origin statement. More complicated meat products, such as pies and ready meals, showed that 76% included some form of origin statement.


Paice said, "Honest food labelling is a priority for me. Consumers want to see clear, honest labels that allow them to make a choice about the standards and origin of their food. They are entitled to believe that if a label says or implies that a product is British, it is British.


"The food industry has already taken the initiative on this, but today's results show there is still room for improvement. People are increasingly eating out so we will work with the catering sector to make sure they get the right information as well."

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