Horsemeat: Faster track for country-of-origin labelling on meat

The European Commission has agreed to speed up the publication of its paper on options for country-of-origin labelling of processed meat products in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

Speaking after a meeting with EU commissioner for health and consumer policy Tonio Borg yesterday, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said the Commission had responded to his call on country-of-origin labelling.

He said the publication of the paper would “help all member states form their own position on what any regulations would look like”.

Paterson met with Borg ahead of yesterday’s EU Agriculture Council meeting in Brussels, where ministers from all 27 Member States discussed the horsemeat scandal.

“The Agriculture Council meeting was the first time that all European ministers have been able to gather round the table to discuss this cross-border criminal problem,” said Paterson. “We need coordinated action by every member state across Europe to rebuild consumer confidence in the products provided by food businesses, and to ensure perpetrators are prosecuted.”

Country-of-origin labelling was one of the items under discussion at the meeting. “Several delegations called for a labelling of the origin of meat entering in the composition of processed meat products,” said a statement from the Council.

“In addition, several member states pointed out that the report on the impact assessment of labelling the origin of meat in processed food, the publication of which was scheduled for December this year, should be published before or after summer.”

EU testing of meat products was also under discussion, with ministers discussing the option of extending the testing programme for a further two months beyond March. However, no final decision was taken at the meeting.

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