Speaking at the launch of the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA’s) five-year science and evidence strategy in London last week, Madelin warned that there were dangers that the imposition of EU-wide labelling systems could be perceived to be imposing a barrier to free trade.
“The jury is out and this debate is going on across Europe, trying to work out what will give both the most competitiveness and growth in the food chain and what will give customers what they want,” he said.
“And there is a big philosophical difference between saying how a legal system across Europe makes the food safe and the desire to go beyond that and sell something better.”
Madelin added: “If we say Europe is a global player – a global partner – it ill becomes us to allow in our market the unilateral setting of private standards, which the poor farmer in the Côte d’Ivoire thinks is cheating him of a good deal.”
He also cited the example of Marine Stewardship Council labelled fish and argued that even if this continues to grow at its current rate, “fish stocks will still be wiped out” because of over fishing.
“So if we are going to go that way around private labels, around fair trade or sustainability, we have to make sure they are effective at scale, otherwise we are saying to the customer: ‘pay a premium to save the planet’ and actually that is not a true statement,” argued Madelin.
This article was first published by our sister publication Food Manufacture.