Food businesses, including supermarkets and processors, should do more voluntarily to improve country of origin labelling on food products such as meat and dairy, Food Minister Jim Paice said today.
On a visit to Melton Mowbray, home of one of Britain’s most iconic protected foods, the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie, Mr Paice said he wanted to see improved country of origin labelling, particularly for meat and dairy products where confusion can most easily occur.
Jim Paice said:
“It is a priority for the Government to ensure that food labelling is as clear as it could be. I’m therefore calling on the industry to work with us to ensure that people can be confident about the origin of the products they buy.
“I’ve written to food industry leaders to emphasise that we want clarity and transparency for the consumers, who want to make a choice based on the origin of their food – particularly if they believe they’re buying British.
“Some good work is already happening – for example the voluntary agreement agreed recently by the pig meat industry. Individual products such as Sainsbury’s Steak and Cornish Ale Pasty and Asda Chicken Puff Pastry Pie have also been singled out as products which show clearly that the meat is British, and the product is made in Britain.
“Where our food comes from is increasingly important to us. I’m here in Melton Mowbray today to see how their pork pie and Stilton cheese industries have used their protected status to increase sales and consumer interest in their product, and the area it comes from.”
The origin labelling of meat, meat products such as pies and ready-meals and dairy products tend to be the most confusing for consumers to understand. Improving labelling for consumers to make it clear where their food comes from is a key objective in developing a voluntary agreement with the industry.
A good practice code already exists within the pig meat industry with many major companies committed to minimum standards on origin labelling, product definitions (eg free range) and breed names on labels.
The EU is considering new rules on origin labelling. While Defra would prefer industry to respond voluntarily to consumer demands for better origin labelling, Defra will also be pressing for the option of compulsion to kept open.