EC refutes Union Jack on British meat claim

The European Commission (EC) has rebuffed claims made by the UK media today that it will ban the Union Flag from British meat products.

A statement from the EC said reports in the media were not true and proposals on the labelling of pre-packed fresh meat will not prevent the use of EU member state flags or additional geographical labels, such as "Welsh" or "Scottish". Private labels, such as the Red Tractor logo, will also still be permitted.

The Commission criticised reports made in “some specialist media” last week and reports in The Daily Express today, saying they were based on incorrect information from various sources, including Defra.   

It said it was “looking to introduce clearer labelling of member state origin” and said: “That will make sure that when customers buy meat labelled as British, they know it really is British and not, for example, just imported for slaughter. This will be done without placing unnecessary burdens on producers and retailers.”

On the subject of flags and private logos, the EC said this was a different issue and would be covered under separate proposals, adding: “While the Commission has no intention of banning flags and other logos on pre-packaged meat – it does not intend either to propose making them compulsory.”

A spokesperson from Defra, meanwhile, said: “We will challenge EU proposals on origin-of-food labelling that are bad for UK businesses and carry no meaningful benefits for shoppers."

Communications manager for Meat Promotion Cymru (HCC) Alan Morris said he was disappointed with the mis-reporting in the national media.

He said: “When I saw it this morning, I thought ‘this is completely wrong’. It is disappointing that the mass-media has gone off on the wrong track and possibly put doubt in consumers' minds when we are trying reinforce the Welsh brand.”

While chairman of Quality Meat Scotland Jim McLaren said the "extensive inaccurate" reports in the press were a very unwelcome source of further confusion on the issue of meat labelling.

"We welcome steps to introduce clearer labelling on meat products and we await with interest the outcome of current discussions at EU level on ‘compulsory rules’ for labelling of pre-packaged fresh meat, including the clearer specification of member state of origin," he said.