Defra’s commitment to “update, clarify and extend” the scope of the industry’s voluntary labelling guidelines has been welcomed by the National Farmers Union (NFU).
Claiming that shoppers would rightly feel misled by certain aspects of the way labelling works at present, NFU food chain adviser, Lorna Hegenbarth, said that “now is the time to revisit the food labelling guidelines”.
“A raft of European labelling advice became law in April 2015, meaning the rules on origin, allergen and nutrition information changed,” she explained in a staff blog on the NFU website, adding that under the new legislation, on-pack labelling of unprocessed meat (sheep, pigs, goat and poultry) now has to declare where the animal was born, reared and slaughtered.
She then pointed out, however, that “crucially”, origin can be stated on packs only if every part of the animal’s life occurred within the same member state. As such, the regulations only covered unprocessed meat, leaving the question of what happens with lightly processed foods, such as bacon or cheese.
“While the European Commission looked into making origin information mandatory for more processed products, it eventually decided against the measure,” said Ms Hegenbarth (pictured above). “And it may be some time before they revisit their decision.
“Currently, under the new regulations, a portion of meat that has been, for example, simply seasoned, or coated, will not need to carry any country of origin information at all. Is this really the best way to keep consumers informed about the provenance of their food?”
Adding that shoppers would rightly feel misled by this approach, she said that, following continued NFU lobbying, the union was “pleased to say that Defra has committed to update, clarify and extend the scope of the voluntary labelling guidelines so they, amongst other things, reach the foodservice industry and online shopping market – in-line with the NFU position”.