MEPs reject labelling proposal in spite of RSPCA support

MEPs have rejected a European Commission proposal on country-of-origin labelling as not being comprehensive enough, but the RSPCA say parliament’s opposition could be a step backwards.

The proposal would have seen labels stating countries of rearing and slaughter on pork and poultry. However, MEPs expressed concerns, as pork could be labelled as ‘reared’ in a member state if the pig had lived there for just four months, or for just one month in the case of poultry.

MEP Glenis Willmott said: “Consumers want the full picture of the meat supply chain, which is why I am calling for the place of birth, rearing and slaughter to be labelled. Many people want to know whether animals have come from places with good welfare standards, and how far they have been transported, for ethical and environmental reasons.

“We already have these rules in place for beef and I don’t see why we shouldn’t have the same for pigs, chickens, sheep and other meat animals.”

MEPs said recent food scandals, like horsegate, meant customers wanted stricter rules for traceability. As an attempt for more detailed origin information to be included in labelling, they have called on the Commission to draw up a revised version, which includes mandatory place of birth, rearing and slaughter.

However, the RSPCA said the rejection of the proposal was “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”.

Senior RSPCA press officer Calie Rydings said: “While the proposal wasn’t perfect, it was workable, achievable and gave clear, concise messaging to consumers. It would have allowed organisations such as the RSPCA to encourage consumers to buy meat where it stated on the label ‘Origin: UK’, as this would have meant that meat would have been born, reared and slaughtered within this country.

“It is our concern that where MEPs have sought perfection, it may end up having the inverse affect and either delaying or destroying perfectly workable legislation, particularly when some member states – the UK included – only wanted place of slaughter stated.”

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