A bid to change the law for country-of-origin labeling of meat is to be launched in the UK by the Conservative Party which, if successful, would affect processed foods containing as little as 10 per cent meat.
The opposition Conservative party claims that current rules are misleading because meat imported from abroad, then processed in Britain and turned into products such as ready meals, sausages and pies, can be labelled British.
However, speaking at the National Farmers’ Union annual conference today, Nick Herbert, shadow secretary for environment, food and rural affairs, is expected to announce plans to introduce a Parliamentary Bill requiring meat and meat products labelled as British or carrying the Union flag to be born and bred in Britain.
Herbert said in a statement: “A voluntary agreement between major food retailers is inadequate and a compulsory labelling scheme is now essential.
“People have a right to know where their food comes from.”
The draft parliamentary bill, part of the Conservatives’ Honest Food campaign, states that the new rules would relate to products containing any meat ingredient(s) which “makes up at least 10 per cent of the product by weight as sold to the ultimate consumer”.
A spokeswoman for the Conservatives told FoodNavigator.com: “We did have 25 per cent but then we dropped it because of things like sandwiches, bacon and pasta or chicken and pasta.”
She said that these products may not have a lot of meat in them but some sandwiches for example are emblazoned with a British flag, when they contain meat from abroad.
Helen Munday, director of Food Safety and Science at the Food and Drink Federation, agreed that labelling should not mislead.
However, she told FoodNavigator.com that the origin of fresh meat was a completely different issue to the labelling of generic products such as pies, cooked using a number of ingredients and sourced from a range of suppliers.
She said: “In this instance, most consumers don’t expect country of origin labelling, unless its absence would mislead them.
“Creating different labels to reflect the changing origin of the ingredients used to cook such complex products would be a nightmare – and one that would add further, unnecessary costs to our sector at a difficult time for all food producers.”
Cost to industry
The Conservatives’ Honest Food report claims that the amendment to the Food Labelling Regulations Bill would not impose “considerable extra burdens” on manufacturers or retailers.
The report said: “It is technically and logistically possible to provide true origin information on products, even those with ingredients which have variable sourcing.
“Indeed, traceability systems are legally required under General Food Law and these allow country of origin to be determined for all ingredients.
“A study in the United States put the increased cost of origin labelling for meat at as little as 0.01 per cent while the EU has said that the small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) consulted would expect a positive impact from compulsory origin labeling.”
An ICM poll for the Conservatives showed that 51 per cent of people believe food labelled as British indicates the meat is from an animal born and bred in Britain, when in fact this is frequently not the case.