On 6 February the European Parliament opposed a labelling system drafted by the European Commission that would allow pork to be labelled as “reared” in a particular EU country if a pig had lived there for just four months, or one month for chickens. However, they could have been born elsewhere.
MEPs said the existing stricter origin labelling law in place for beef should apply to pigmeat and poultry. “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. 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,” said British Labour MEP Glenis Willmott, who drafted the parliament’s motion.
The motion could delay the introduction of the new labels, if the parliament decides to take legal action, claiming the Commission exceeded its powers in drafting the rules in this way. The problem for MEPs is that the decision-making system is the so-called ‘comitology’ process used for secondary regulations, drawing their authority from a formal EU law. A Commission official told globalmeatnews.com that because MEPs had not objected before, they would have to take the Commission to the European Court of Justice requesting that the new label be scrapped, within two months of the new regulation’s publication.
The Commission official insisted its pigmeat and poultry labelling regulations were legal under the EU’s regulation on food information to consumers – (EU) No 1169/2011. This, said the official, “expressly states that the modalities can differ from one species to another – and there is therefore no need to follow the ‘beef model’.” Indeed, it made much less sense given pigs and poultry lived shorter lives than cows, he added.
This is unlikely to cut much ice with Willmott, who said: “We already have these rules in place for beef and I don’t see why we shouldn’t have the same for pigs, chickens, sheep and other meat animals.” She said the origin of meat was of prime concern to consumers, especially given last year’s horsemeat scandal. However, the parliament has yet to take a decision on whether to challenge the new labelling system at the ECJ.