Julian leads food labelling debate in Parliament
March 15, 2017
Yesterday, Julian led a debate in Westminster Hall in Parliament on the future of food origin labelling, which is important for both the consumers and producers of food, and for rural communities.
Accurate labelling, especially around country of origin, is important for guaranteeing fair competition for British farmers, and ensuring their products can compete on the basis of quality. It is also essential for consumers, so that they can make informed choices about how they spend their money, and are able to “buy British” with confidence when they so choose.
Rules in this area are mainly decided by the EU, and there is already mandatory country of origin labelling for fresh meat, fish and most fruit and vegetables. Withdrawal therefore gives the UK the opportunity to build on the measures the EU has already taken in this area, and extend mandatory origin labelling to areas the EU has not yet reached, including processed meat products like sausages, bacon and ready meals.
Julian called on the government to continue its efforts to secure mandatory country of origin labelling, saying “I hope that the efforts Ministers were planning to expend on the EU…..will now be channelled into examining the opportunities for the UK on this issue on a similar broad basis.”
He asked Ministers to use the freedom they will now have to extend mandatory national origin labelling to dairy products, which the EU Commission has been hesitant to approve. Julian also called for the continued promotion of traditional regional and speciality foods, particularly as part of the UK’s exports drive.
Julian also argued “the lack of mandatory labelling for processed meat products and our own Food Standards Agency guidelines mean that those products can legally be labelled as British or ‘made in Britain’ if they are only processed in this country, even if they are made from non-British meat…..Crucially, those products are displayed side by side on supermarket shelves with fresh meat that is subject to mandatory country of origin labelling requirements. A national origin label on two very similar products sitting next to each other can in fact mean very different things, potentially misleading the consumer and disadvantaging both them and British agriculture.”
Julian said this was hugely unfair to UK producers, and also restricted consumer choice. He asked the government “seriously to consider establishing a clear single UK country of origin standard, with a single country of origin label on the packet meaning that the animal was born, raised and slaughtered in the country” for all meat products.
Responding for the government, the Minster for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, George Eustice said he was “always open to strengthening transparency for consumers” and was willing to look at improving regulation on this. He also made clear that “there will be an opportunity to look at strengthening mandatory labelling” on some dairy products after the UK leaves the EU, and said that the government were already looking to promote regional and traditional speciality products through “looking at whether we can have some kind of mutual recognition of existing protected food names” with EU countries.
To read the full transcript of the debate please click here