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Commission should strengthen meat origin labelling, say MEPs

By Caroline Scott-Thomas+

07-Feb-2014
Last updated the 07-Feb-2014 at 15:36 GMT

Commission should strengthen meat origin labelling, say MEPs

MEPs have rejected a European Commission proposal for labelling meat according to where animals were reared and slaughtered – but not where they were born.

The Parliament repeatedly has called for full supply chain origin labelling, including animals’ place of birth, but the Commission had rejected such proposals, which were first suggested as the horse meat scandal unfolded across Europe last year. Beef products already require full origin disclosure in the EU, with rules in place since 2002, following the BSE crisis.

Parliamentarians argued that the Commission’s decision to omit country of birth labelling could mislead consumers.

“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,” said MEP Glenis Willmott (S&P, UK), who drafted the resolution. “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, sheep, chicken and other meat animals."

The vote is not binding, but Green food safety spokesperson Carl Schlyter said he hoped the Commission would issue a new proposal that includes full origin disclosure.

"Recent food scandals, notably regarding meat products, have underlined the need for full transparency in the food production chain. Displaying this information is also an important tool for meat-eaters who want to choose to eat meat from animals that did not suffer the stress of long-distance transport, given the failure to reduce animal transport times in the EU,” he said.

Meanwhile, several EU countries have already agreed to label only the country of rearing and slaughter.

Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation called the Commission’s position ‘half-hearted’, and urged it to issue a proposal for full origin labelling.

 “This vote is a positive signal to try and restore consumers’ trust in their food. MEP’s rightly listened to those 90% of consumers who want to have the full picture of where their meat comes from.

“We hope the Commission will not turn a deaf ear to the European Parliament’s call.”

Following the vote, Willmott said: "The battle for honest food labelling continues, and I will now focus my efforts on ensuring we get country of origin labelling for meat in processed foods. Consumers want to know where the beef in their lasagne and the chicken in their curry comes from.

"A year on from the horsemeat scandal we should be making some fundamental changes.  Making country of origin rules mandatory will force manufacturers to get a better grip on their supply chain, and could help avoid another scandal."

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