Defra talks to food firms about extending COOL

Informal conversations between Defra officials and UK food companies have begun over the possibility of extending country-of-origin labelling (COOL) to differentiate between food produced in the different countries, regions or towns of the UK. 

In April, mandatory COOL came into force in Europe, requiring all fresh, chilled and frozen meat from sheep, goats, pigs and poultry to be labelled with where the animal was born, reared and slaughtered. Similar rules for beef have been in place since the BSE crisis.

Currently, meat reared and slaughtered in the UK doesn’t have to say which of the four UK countries it comes from.

A Defra spokeswoman said the conversations were at a very early stage, but some parties, including the Scottish government and some Scottish food firms, were keen to make the labels country-specific. However, any changes would have to be negotiated with Brussels and there was no current timescale, she said.

Defra supported having flexibility within COOL, the spokeswoman added, and would welcome changes that allowed companies to specify which of the four UK countries their product was made in.

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