EC backs voluntary approach to future food labelling requirements

The European Commission (EC) has published two reports on an extension of country of origin labelling, reaching the conclusion that the benefits from new mandatory labelling requirements “do not clearly outweigh the costs” and that “voluntary labelling rules seem to be the most suitable solution”.

The first report deals with the feasibility of different options for mandatory origin labelling for dairy products and for minor meats, notably horsemeat, rabbit meat and meat from game and birds (farmed and wild), given that labelling rules are already in place for beef, pigmeat, poultry, sheep and goats.

It concludes that the existing options for voluntary labelling could “address consumer demands while retaining flexibility for member states and food operators”. It also states that compulsory origin labelling would imply operational costs which would not outweigh the benefits.

The second report explores the need for consumers to be informed on the origin of unprocessed foods, single ingredient products and ingredients that represent more than 50% of a food. It concludes that consumers are interested in origin labelling for all these food categories, but less so for food categories such as meat, meat products and dairy products.

The report, which also looks at the costs and benefits of labelling rules, concludes that voluntary origin labelling, combined with existing mandatory origin labelling regimes for specific foods or categories of food, is the “most suitable way forward”.

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