Origin labels: government 'should move now'
Published:  13 September, 2016

The government should launch compulsory origin labelling for meat and milk in processed products, farmers’ unions and the National Pig Association (NPA) have urged in a letter to Defra Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom. 

The National Farmers Unions of England, Wales and Scotland and the NPA argued the move would give shoppers more choice and confidence when buying British food and increase transparency in the supply chain.

The organisations also expressed their concerns over the loss of food name protection as the UK negotiates a new deal with the EU post-Brexit.

"We consider that the introduction of mandatory origin labelling for processed meat and dairy products will provide consumers with consistent transparency and increase the integrity of our food supply chain," the letter stated. "As preparations get under way for the UK's exit negotiations with the European Union, we suggest that there is no better time to support this measure, which will increase the provenance of the British product at home and overseas in future export markets."

The group also issued a joint statement, saying: “More needs to be done to make labelling clearer and all our organisations lobby hard on this issue.

“The French government is now implementing a two-year trial of country of origin labelling for meat and milk in processed products while other European governments have outlined their plans to implement country of origin labelling for processed foods.

“We believe that the UK government should move now to introduce origin labelling for meat and milk in processed products which would provide greater transparency. With the Brexit negotiations on the horizon, this could be the start of strong national legislation to ensure we have clear country of origin labelling in the future."

The organisations claimed inconsistent results of voluntary commitments on origin labelling could sometimes be the source of confusion among shoppers.

“We know more British people want more British food on their plates. A survey carried out by the NFU in May 2016 found that 60% of the public often or always look specifically for British produce when shopping for food,” they stated.

“Farmers and growers produce high quality, nutritious products that carry the Red Tractor logo signalling excellent traceability and food safety, and as an industry we should be able to showcase these products to shoppers through mandatory country of origin labelling. Labelling needs to provide accurate, clear and relevant information so consumers can make an informed choice.”

“It’s important to also stress that that we do want to see the continued use of food name protections in the UK that guarantees authenticity and origin and prevents imitation products from using the name. This includes some of the UK’s most famous foods such as Stilton cheese, West Country beef and lamb, Scotch beef and lamb and Welsh beef and lamb.

“We believe the use of the European Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) have been vital in protecting food provenance in the marketplace.”

In July, environment secretary Liz Truss said in the House of Commons that she was keen to develop a British version of the EU protected food name scheme.