This study recommends three options for a European Union (EU)-wide system: maintaining voluntary origin labelling (the status quo); introducing mandatory labelling giving manufacturers a choice of EU/non-EU labels or mentioning an EU or specific non-EU country of origin; or insisting that labelling indicates the country of origin of meat ingredients, an EU member state or non-EU country.
A Commission communiqué said discussions with EU member states and the European Parliament would now follow and Brussels would consider whether to propose a new law.
The report’s main findings revealed that EU consumer interest in origin labelling for meat ingredients “appears to be considerably strong (90% of consumers)”. However, there are significant differences between EU member states on this issue. It said: “While between 65% and 85% of respondents in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Romania consider ‘very important’ that origin is labelled on all the three meat-related products considered, only around 50% of respondents in Germany, Spain and Lithuania deem it ‘very important’.”
It added that consumer interest for such meat ingredient origin labelling ranks behind price and quality regarding factors influencing consumers when they choose a food product. And it warned: “Strong consumer interest in origin labelling is not reflected in the consumer’s willingness to pay the additional cost that would be incurred in providing that information. At price increases of less than 10%, the consumers’ willingness to pay falls by 60-80%,” it added.
As for the report’s assessment of the three options, it said that while maintaining the status quo would be cheap, it “would not provide a fully satisfactory solution to the consumer demand for origin information.”
The other two options would both “pose operational challenges and require radical adaptations in the food chain”. However, on the one hand the Commission said that it would be “more feasible” to give companies a choice between individual country labelling-only and also having the option of saying ingredients are from the EU or outside the EU.
But it also that warned that the EU/non-EU option could be “considered as too generic and not worthy of any price increase resulting from additional operating costs…”