New Labelling Rules Will Confuse Shoppers, Say Farmers

by 5m Editor
17 December 2013, at 7:04am

UK - NFU and NPA say the new European Commission rules on food labelling may lead to massive confusion for British shoppers.

The Commission voted to introduce mandatory "reared and slaughtered" labelling rules. NFU and NPA say the mandatory rules should have extended to embrace "born, reared and slaughtered" — a decision which would increase confidence at a time when food companies and consumers are still reeling following the horsemeat scandal.

The two organisations are concerned that labels could give the impression that a product is from the United Kingdom when the animal was in fact born in another country.

"We want to see the British government, retailers and the food processing industry taking a clear position to safeguard the integrity of the United Kingdom brand because we are concerned about the potential to mislead consumers by the use of flags and other marketing claims on origins of meat," said NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond.

"Since 2010, in industry voluntary country of origin guidelines, retailers and processors have been following good practice of origin labelling and any deviation from this undermines consumer trust and the integrity of British farmers. We hope they will continue to support consumer transparency and uphold the integrity of the United Kingdom and British brands.

"The Food Information Regulations are meant to provide consumers with transparency about where their food has come from and frankly this flies in the face of exactly that."

NPA acting general manager Lizzie Press said, "Considering country of origin labelling was supposed to provide transparency and simplification in order to help consumers make an informed choice when shopping, the agreed proposal is now more confusing than ever and will require a great deal of explanation.

"There is the potential therefore, as an example, for the label to give the impression that a pig is wholly from the United Kingdom when it was born in another country and has spent only a proportion of its life, such as ten weeks for a pig, in the country stated on the label."

An NFU-commissioned survey by YouGov found that half of consumers feel that existing country of origin labels on meat products are generally unclear. It also reveals that 78 per cent of consumers would feel misled if sold a meat product that carried a British flag on the label but the animal was not born in the United Kingdom. Additionally, 79 per cent say that meat products with a Union flag on the label should mean that the animal was born, reared and slaughtered in United Kingdom.