Conservatives introduce labelling Bill

The Conservative Party has stepped up its campaign for 'honest' food labelling by introducing a Bill that would make country-of-origin labelling mandatory for meat.

The Bill - which would also prevent products from being labelled as 'British' unless the meat came from an animal born, reared and slaughtered in the UK - was introduced to the House of Commons by Richard Bacon, Conservative MP for South Norfolk, on Tuesday (18 March).

Bacon said that the country-of-origin Bill has "long-standing cross-party support", as well as support from consumers and the meat industry. A recent ICM poll, commissioned by the Conservatives, revealed that 87% of consumers believe that the government should ensure country-of-origin labelling is shown clearly on food products.

"There is clear evidence that consumers want more information. There is widespread support from farmers to chefs to animal welfare bodies for better country-of-origin labelling. It is time for clear country-of-origin labelling for all meat." he said.

Adding that voluntary schemes have been promised but never materialised, Bacon added: "The time has come to accept that honest food labelling requires the force of law. That is what consumers have the right to expect, and that is what my Bill provides."

The government remains opposed to the proposal, arguing that if the UK were to introduce mandatory country-of-origin labelling regulation, it would be breaking EU law.

Speaking in Parliament recently, Food and Farming minister Jane Kennedy pointed out that the government is working with major retailers to encourage voluntary country-of-origin labelling, but said any attempt to make such a scheme mandatory under UK law would merely lead to a "costly, complicated and drawn-out row with the European Commission".

She added that country-of-origin labelling would not solve all the problems in the supply chain. "We all agree that consumers need clear information to enable them to make informed decisions, but the Opposition's simplistic solution of introducing new domestic legislation is not the silver bullet that they are asking this House, the farming community and citizens to believe," she said.