Why laws on labelling how pigs are reared will not work

The RSPCA's calls to Defra for more precise regulations which define what is mean by phrases such as 'outdoor reared' and 'outdoor-bred' could cause difficulties for the pig industry.

The RSPCA's calls to Defra for more precise regulations which define what is mean by phrases such as 'outdoor reared' and 'outdoor-bred' could cause difficulties for the pig industry, a firm of lawyers has warned.

This week the RSPCA has written to Defra, the FSA, BPEX, the British Retail Consortium and leading supermarkets demanding a change to the labelling amid concerns that the lack of information could mislead the consumer.

Owen Warnock, at law firm Eversheds, said while this would make it absolutely clear whether or not particular words could or could not be used to describe a particular pigmeat product, it would create two real difficulties.

"The first is that selecting a range of specific phrases constrains retailers and processors in the words that they can use to explain to consumers the origin and the history of the meat. Since individual supermarkets have different farming standards and specific preferences as to the way in which talk to customers about their products, this is a real commercial problem for them in a competitive market."

The other problem, he said, was one that always comes up when there is a call for changes to food labelling in the UK. "Nearly all aspects of food labelling law are prescribed by the European Union. In order to ensure that there is a free market in food products across Europe, and to prevent particular countries from erecting 'non-tariff barriers' to protect their own industry, member states such as the UK are not permitted to add additional labelling requirements unless there are exceptional circumstances," added Warnock.

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