Country of origin labelling could become mandatory

Food manufacturers may soon be made to provide clear and accurate information on the country of origin of meat, Defra announced today (7 November).

The government said it had been demanding stronger labelling rules across the EU for past three years, and was now implementing these rules in the UK.

It said it would be legislating on country-of-origin labelling of meat, the minimum font size on labels, declaration of nanomaterial ingredients and a requirement to state the plant origin of the oil in the product.

However, it added that country-of-origin labelling would be “subject to [European] Commission rules”.

Minister of State for Agriculture and Food David Heath explained the government was “tightening” rules to make it easier for consumers to make informed decisions. He said: “We fought long and hard in Europe for more honest labelling, so that people can make up their own minds about what they eat.

“We are making it easier for consumers to know what is in the food and drink they buy, while at the same time cutting red tape for businesses.”

Eblex, the levy body for the British beef and lamb industry, said country-of-origin labelling would be a positive move that would help consumers when shopping. Eblex said: “Any legislation introduced to help consumers make better-informed decisions about the food they buy is to be welcomed. Clear country-of-origin labelling is an important part of this.”

Defra said it would provide a reasonable period of time for the industry to implement the changes and added that this would minimise costs. Also, businesses will not have to immediately re-label every product to comply with the law and can absorb costs in planned re-labelling.

Andrea Martinez-Inchausti assistant director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said she was interested to see how Defra would take the legislation forward. She added: “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.”

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