Rossides expressed the BMPA’s views at the forum on 7 November, which was the same day Defra announced the government’s wish to further COOL plans in the UK, as part of the Food Information Regulation (FIR) legislation.
FIR, which would affect COOL, was implemented by Defra in 2011. However, the bulk of the regulation, including COOL, is still to be discussed before being enforced in 2014.
Rossides explained that the regulations had created the “greatest interest” within the industry, despite them having still to be agreed. He said: “Do consumers across the EU really want mandatory country-of-origin labelling. Isn’t nutritional labelling more important?
“In our view, the EU needs to carry out much more research and we already have country-of-origin labelling for beef and it would be easy to do it in the other meat categories, but just because something can be done, it does not mean it should be done. We think that it should be origin, but ‘Origin: EU’, and ‘Origin: non-EU’.
“We are most certainly opposed to mandatory country-of-origin labelling in food products where meat is used.”
According to Rossides, the BMPA would like to see more information on what consumers want with regards to COOL. He said it was his understanding that there was a higher awareness in this country of COOL and would like to see more evidence on where it stands.
Rossides added that he wasn’t sure what local meant any more. He said: “I think there’s a way to go on this discussion and where it ranks.”
A Defra study carried out in 2006 revealed that 47% of consumers did want to see COOL on packaging to show all countries in the chain of production, while 28% said packaging should state the origin of the raw material.
Assistant director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, said the BRC had been working throughout the European process to influence the final outcome of the FIR regulation. She said: “We are broadly content with its provisions. There are still a lot of elements that are to be agreed, such as the detail behind the new provisions on country-of-origin labelling. For the BRC, the interesting part of the consultation would be to see how Defra suggests the provisions in existing national legislation are to be taken forward.”
In 2010 a voluntary origin code was set up to be used by food manufacturers, which the then farming minister Jim Paice said would clear up much confusion and make the British shopper the most origin-informed in Europe.
Currently it is mandatory for COOL to be used on fresh meat. If a food is marketed by its origin, then the origin of the main ingredient must also be displayed, otherwise the consumer could be misled.