Conducted in Sweden, France, Poland and Austria, the BEUC-commissioned survey aimed to evaluate consumers’ expectations and understanding of origin labelling.
It found that an average of 70% of respondents considered origin to be an important factor when buying food – ranging from 61% of respondents in Sweden to 77% of those in Austria. But what do consumers understand origin to mean?
The survey found that 60% of respondents wanted to know both where a product’s primary ingredient was farmed or harvested as well as where the food was manufactured.
“Such demands would prevent practices like labelling sausages as “British” when the pork comes from Denmark,” BEUC said.
Only about 10% of those surveyed said it was sufficient to know a product was of EU or non-EU origin, with most respondents preferring to know the country of origin. For French respondents, 36% said knowing the region a food came from was important, compared to 50% who were satisfied with country-specific information. By contrast, only 13% of Swedish respondents said that region was important, with 78% preferring country of origin information.
BEUC recommends updating food labelling rules to better reflect consumers’ preferences in country of origin labelling.
Director-general of BEUC Monique Goyens said: “In 2013, the EU will decide on crucial rules on origin labelling. Our survey clearly shows that this info ranks high when people buy food. Making origin labelling meaningful and easy to find should be legislators’ yardstick.”
She added that ‘dishonest’ practices should be prohibited, such as promoting a German feta cheese with a Greek font, or a Chinese tomato sauce with Italian flags.
“Current origin labelling rules are inadequate. All meats, milk, unprocessed food and single-ingredient food should mandatorily reveal the country it comes from,” she said. “Just to indicate whether food is from the EU or not is not an option for consumers.”