EC urged to apply COOL to meat as an ingredient

The European Parliament has asked the European Commission to introduce country-of-origin labelling (COOL) for meat used as an ingredient in processed foods.

MEPs have been calling on the European Commission to draft legislative proposals on COOL for meat used in processed foods, as is already the case with fresh beef.

The resolution was passed yesterday (12 February) by 460 votes to 204, with 33 abstentions.

An earlier vote in January was passed by 48 votes to 15, with four abstentions, resulting in the issue being discussed, along with an oral question to the Commission, and put to a plenary session yesterday.

The drive behind the proposals for COOL is a desire to rebuild consumer confidence following recent food fraud cases, including the horsemeat scandal, and to improve transparency throughout the supply chain.

Research conducted by the European Commission suggested that more than 90% of consumers thought it was important that meat products were labelled.

Giovanni La Via (EPP, IT), environment committee chair, said that, following the horsemeat scandal, “It is now up to us to regain consumers’ trust.

“Nonetheless, we must ensure that this does not lead to additional burdens on small and medium-sized enterprises, of which there are many in this sector,” he added.

However, the meat industry has been outspoken against the legislation as it would create extra cost for processors.

Stephen Rossides, director of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said he was disappointed at the decision, but not surprised: “The vote is not binding on the European Commission and we hope the Commission will resist calls for its introduction.

“Mandatory labelling would merely add administrative burdens and cost on to meat manufacturers and higher consumer prices. COOL, of itself, cannot detect or prevent food fraud, as some MEPs and consumer bodies seem to believe. In our view, it is bad administration to impose new legislation that is difficult or costly to meet and enforce; this risks bringing the law into disrepute.”

This was echoed by the Food and Drink Federation which argued voluntary COOL already exists where it is feasible and where there is consumer demand.

“Any extension to the legislation on COOL would affect flexibility in the food supply chain which is vital to ensuring consistent supply of ingredients of appropriate quantity, quality and affordability. Provision of COOL for meat as an ingredient is more complex than for fresh meat and the additional costs incurred, as shown by research, would place unwelcome strain on both business and household budgets,” a spokesperson for FDF noted.

MEPs have also noted that more research needs to done into the impact on prices, as those suggested by French consumer organisation Que Choisir vary widely from those in the Commission’s report.