French meat and dairy country-of-origin labelling trial begins
The scheme came into force on 1 January 2017 and covers beef, pork, poultry, sheep and goat meat. The pilot project will run until 31 December 2018, after which France will submit a report to the European Commission outlining the results.
If it is a success, the EC may consider generalising the rules for all 28 member states.
France’s Ministry of Agriculture said the two-year COOL trial could be a “major opportunity” to ensure quality meat and milk were recognised and created a “step forward” in communicating messages to consumers.
Market ‘fragmentation’ warning
However, the controversial move has split the food industry’s key figures, some of whom have warned the COOL scheme could lead to disintegration of the single market at a time when trade protectionism is rising.
“This scheme will have an impact on the [meat] deliveries to France and constitutes a precedent that will contribute to the fragmentation of the single market – one of the major achievements of the EU,” said Jean-Luc Mériaux secretary general of the European Meat and Livestock Trade Union (UECBV).
“Alternatives for [providing] efficient information to the consumers already exist, such as a voluntary scheme or an EU harmonised approach. Hopefully, the trial will conclude that one of the two alternatives is better than the national compulsory scheme.”
The National Association of Food Industries (ANIA) has also expressed its concern for the scheme. Further comment could not be obtained.
Only foodstuffs that have 100% French meat or milk will be eligible for the label ‘produit d’origine Française’ – a label that guarantees the produce is entirely French-made.
The new COOL labelling is now mandatory for all prepared food dishes that contain more than 8% meat. The label has to specify where livestock were born, reared and slaughtered.
Origin labelling has already been mandatory in France for fresh meat since 1 April 2015.
Products manufactured before 1 January 2017 – the day the COOL trial came into force – may be sold until 31 March 2017.
Companies found not to be adopting the mandatory COOL labelling for either meat or milk products could face a financial penalty.