Government backs origin labelling campaign

Lord Rooker backed the MLC campaign's for transparent origin of meat labelling on menus in foodservice outlets yesterday at a MLC Symposium in London.

Lord Rooker backed the MLC campaign's for origin of meat labelling on menus in foodservice outlets yesterday at a MLC Symposium in London.

The minister of state for sustainable farming and food said the climate had changed dramatically in the last 10 years and the public had a greater interest in the origin of food.

However, he counselled against going down the legislative route on menu transparency as this could take up to three years. "It would be much better if the industry does this voluntarily and provides something the public has confidence otherwise there will be pressure to regulate."

Lord Rooker also warned foodservice outlets against defensive labelling which enterprises used for commercial reasons such as "free from GMO ingredients" when the government had not even approved the product.

Lord Rooker's comments followed new research unveiled by the MLC, which found that more than two-thirds of consumers want to be told where the meat they eat is from.

The MLC carried out a NOP survey in January 2007, which found that 60% of people want restaurants to provide clearer information on the country of origin of the meat they serve. A MORI poll carried out in 2006 showed similar results.

MLC CEO Richard Lowe called on foodservice establishments to follow the example of retailers who had been improving their labelling of origin.

He cited the example of the Aberdeen Angus label in restaurants as causing confusion through unambiguous labelling as 84% of consumers believe it comes from Scotland when less than 40% is produced domestically.

Lowe also pointed to menus that selectively put down the origin of meat on two or three dishes causing consumers to assume that the rest of the meat was also British.

"The relevance of origin is increasing not decreasing," said Lowe. "Over the last three years origin labelling on menu has improved slightly but it has some way to go."

The MLC campaign is hoping its campaign to extend origin labelling in foodservice outlets will pick up momentum following Scotland's decision to introduce mandatory labelling last month.

Other countries that have gone down this route are France, which in 2001 became the first EU country to introduce mandatory labelling for the origin of beef with all outlets having to state the origin either on menu or at the point of purchase.

This was followed by Northern Ireland in 2006.

Other countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, have recommended that catering outlets should voluntarily provide details of the origin of the beef they are serving.

Austria is currently considering voluntary or mandatory labelling.

Tony Goodger, MLC trade sector manager said: "The clear message in front of the consumer route, namely on the menu route, is in our opinion the preferred route. We believe that a consumer has a right to know the origin of all meat served when eating or at home."

A spokesman for the NFU said: "We must ensure that our customers are provided with the information they need to make an informed decision.

"We know that customers are requesting more information on where their meat comes from, so let's tell them.

It's a no brainer, our customers demand improved transparency in the food service sector so lets celebrate our food and label where it comes from."

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