The Countryside Alliance provided a background brief on Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling ahead of a Westminster Hall Debate on 17th October 2013

BACKGROUND BRIEF ON MANDATORY COUNTRY OF ORIGIN LABELLING
WESTMINSTER HALL DEBATE

Eighth report of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee – Contamination of Beef Products, HC 946, 2012-13, and Food Contamination

THURSDAY 17 OCTOBER 2013

CURRENT SITUATION

• The recent scandal of the contamination of beef products and food contamination highlights that it is vitally important to have adequate food labelling, particularly with respect to meat in processed food products. More stringent country of origin labelling on all meat products would foster improved traceability systems, making it harder for unlabelled meat to enter the food chain.

• The continuing lack of clarity on food labelling, particularly the country of origin, remains an issue of concern to British producers, farmers and consumers alike.

• Without clear labelling identifying the country of origin, and other important information, British farmers and producers are not able to take advantage of the desire amongst the public to buy British food and the public are not able to make informed choices on what they buy in terms of supporting British farmers and on issues of quality and animal welfare.

• The lack of mandatory country of origin food labelling continues to place British farmers at a disadvantage when much of their competition comes from producers in countries, which are not subject to such robust animal welfare legislation and standards and the associated costs.

• For example higher welfare standards were introduced in the UK for pig production yet pork products continue to be imported into the UK and labelled as British despite originating in countries with lower welfare standards, even within the EU.

• What results is a distorted market, in which the British producer does not receive a fair price and the consumer does not have an informed choice.

• Beef labelling regulations were first introduced in 1997 as a response to the BSE crisis and have since been reinforced. In general, all beef and veal must indicate the country – the state – of origin, by reference to the places where the animal was born, reared and slaughtered. This does not extend to meat in processed products.

• In July 2011the European Parliament voted to extend mandatory country of origin labelling to fresh meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry.

• However mandatory country of origin labelling still does not include foods where meat is an ingredient, such as sausages and ready meals. So it remains the case that sausages made in Britain using Danish pork can still be legitimately be labelled as ‘British’.

COUNTRYSIDE ALLIANCE POSITION

• It is imperative that single country labels for meat should require that the animal was born, reared and slaughtered in that country.

• The introduction of legislation making it a legal requirement for the country of origin to be included on food labels would provide support to British farmers and, in turn, provide British consumers with greater choice and confidence in the products they are buying.

• Mandatory country of origin food labelling must be introduced to help level the playing field for British farmers and allow British consumers to make an informed choice in support of British agriculture and its high standards of production and animal welfare.

KEY FACTS

• Polling commissioned by The Countryside Alliance Foundation (TCAF) in May 2011 by YouGov found that 90 per cent of people support the proposal that a British flag should only be given to meat products where the animal has been born, reared and slaughtered in Britain.

• The same polling found that 74 per cent of people think it is important that the meat products people buy have a British country origin.

• 47 per cent of people check the country of origin when shopping for meat products, however almost half of consumers who look at country of origin labelling only 39 per cent of people know what a British flag on a meat product knew under current legislation.

• 43 per cent of people believed a British label on a meat product indicated that the animal was raised in Britain.