September 18, 2013


EU may limit country of origin labelling


The European Commission (EC) has proposed limiting country-of-origin labels to the name of the member state where the animal was reared.
The measure will be applicable to unprocessed pork, poultry, sheep and goat meat products.


This could end the practice of consumers buying Scottish chicken or lamb, based on looking at labels. The other home nations could also be affected as their meats are not from standalone EU member states and, under the proposals, would be described as from the UK.


The EC wants labels to show where an animal was reared and slaughtered to ensure that shoppers know about its origin. However, the British Retail Consortium warned of "chaos", declaring that "hundreds, if not thousands, of products could be affected".


The Coalition Government has declared the draft proposals "bad for business and consumers" and is pushing for changes regarding the labelling.


A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said that they will challenge the EU proposals that could affect UK businesses and brings no possible benefits for shoppers. Officials feel the proposal will effectively ban flags and regional labels which are made for easier undertanding.


Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, deputy director of food at the British Retail Consortium said that the proposal would create problems if every product in a supermarket has to carry the place of slaughter for every single meat ingredient.


The National Farmers' Union (NFU) calls for labels to show where an animal was born, reared and slaughtered to prevent shoppers from being misled about products labelled as British.  They alleged that some animals were born overseas and shipped to Britain for the last few weeks of their lives.


The NFU Head of Food Chain, Deborah Cawood, said that while they welcome clarity of country of origin labelling (COOL) across meat products, the EU Commission's proposal is bad for consumers wanting to be certain of the origin of their meat products, and for producers who follow one of the most regulated standards in the world.


Lindsay Harris, DEFRA's deputy director of food and material security and standards, said: "The draft proposals revealed this week suggest other voluntary information such as symbols like a flag would not be allowed at all. We don't think place of slaughter is relevant and will be pushing for the proposals to be changed to show just the place where the meat was reared." Harris said a raft of voluntary labelling policies used by retailers would be hit. DEFRA is preparing to challenge the proposals, which are expected to be published at the end of this month.


The EC said the new rules would not ban labels "as long as they do not mislead".

"This is about making sure that, when customers buy meat labelled as British, they know it really is British and not just imported for slaughter. So the proposal will mean consumers know where what they are buying has really come from, without any unnecessary burdens on producers and retailers," an EC spokesman said.

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