Following a vote in the European Parliament this week, the European Commission has been called on to come up with legislative proposals for the introduction of such labelling, in the hope that it will restore consumer confidence in the wake of widely publicised food fraud cases, such as the horsemeat scandal. The resolution was passed by 48 votes to 15, with four abstentions.
The Commission published a report on the issue of COOL in December 2013, which the MEPs said stated that 90% of consumer respondents in a study considered it important that meat origin should be labelled on processed food products.
This data, from a Food Chain Evaluation Consortium (FCEC) study, was based on a "more targeted examination of different types of processed meat products", and was carried out in the midst of the horsemeat scandal, between December 2012 and March 2013.
According to the ‘GfK consumer study on the meat market’, carried out prior to the scandal, country of origin was the fourth most important aspect (of 15) looked at by consumers when buying meat products – the equivalent of around 48% of EU consumers.
MEPs have also asked for a clearer picture on the likely impact these proposed measures would have on prices. Research carried out by French consumer organisation Que Choisir diverge widely from those in the Commission’s report, it has been said.
The European Commission report suggested that there was a significant drop-off in consumers’ ‘willingness to pay’ (WTP) the extra added to the price of products, in return for information on its origin.
"These findings confirm a ‘paradox’ or a discrepancy between consumers’ interest in origin labelling and WTP for that information. Consumers would be interested in receiving the information – at the highest level of detail possible – if this information was to be offered without any price increase," read the Commission’s report.
Last December’s report also admitted that possible price increases "affect negatively the consumption of meat-related foods".
MEPs said evaluations into the effects of price changes should be carried out in conjunction with consumer organisations, and would not delay legislative proposals.
It will now be discussed, along with an oral question to the Commission, and put to a plenary session vote in February.
According to the report, 30-50% of the total slaughtered meat volume in Europe is processed into meat ingredients for foodstuffs.