The motion for a resolution was drafted by MEPs of the European committee on the environment, public health and food safety (ENVI).
Consumer interest balanced against costs
“The European Parliament […] calls on the Commission to investigate the possibility of limiting the scope of mandatory country of origin labelling to cases where consumer interest is balanced against the costs, such as for drinking milk as well as lightly processed dairy and meat products and to come up with legislative proposals in these areas,” the resolution reads.
In the resolution, MEPs cite the results of a 2013 Eurobarometer survey which found 90% of EU citizen respondents thought it was important the origin of meat used in processed food products was labelled. Meanwhile 84% were in favour of mandatory origin labelling for milk, whether sold as such or used as an ingredient in dairy products.
A spokesperson for the Green and European Free Alliance Party told FoodNavigator the resolution was a political message to put pressure on the Commission.
In February 2015 the European Parliament urged the Commission to legislate to make origin labelling of meat in processed foods and milk in dairy products mandatory. But the Commission responded with two reports that concluded the cost would be too great.
MEPs are now saying this conclusion "possibly overstates the costs of country of origin labelling to business" by considering all processed foods.
“The European Parliament believes that the costs of country of origin labelling of milk would be significantly reduced if its scope was limited to drinking milk and lightly processed dairy products, such as cheese and cream.
“Costs of country of origin labelling for processed meat would be significantly reduced if its scope was limited to lightly processed meat products, such as bacon and sausages.”
Back in the spotlight
Industry group Food Drink Europe has previously opposed mandatory labelling for processed meats, such as ham on pizza or meat in meatballs, arguing it would negatively affect small businesses and raise consumer prices.
But European consumer rights group BEUC welcomed the move. Camille Perrin, senior food policy officer, said: “It is heartening to see origin labelling back under the spotlight thanks to the European Parliament. Origin is dear to 90% of the European consumers and it is time the Commission heeds their wishes.
“The Commission themselves admit that labelling the origin of drinking milk would cost little money. So why are they brushing aside origin labelling altogether disregarding whether we are talking about bottled milk or whey powder? We have long called on them to evaluate labelling costs differentiating between product types.”
If the resolution passes the ENVI committee it will be put to a plenary European Parliament vote, before being sent to the Commission.
Last year one German manufacturer of processed ready meals, Frosta, spoke of its cost-effective method of origin labelling for its ingredients. The company told FoodNavigator: “Even though the EU parliament is asking for more regulation, the EU commission and industry lobbyists claim that more transparency would make products more expensive and that even jobs might get lost. [But] the costs are marginal."