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Monday, February 16, 2009

Cautionary label

Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment Nick Herbert has today launched the Conservatives' 'Honest food' campaign. The campaign aims to get compulsory 'country of origin' labelling introduced, so that consumers would know that meat products labelled "British" could only have come from animals born, bred, and slaughtered in Britain.

A new Bill will be introduced in Parliament, which according to Conservative Home will be about:

- Allowing consumers to make informed choices about the food they buy
- Preventing non-British meat being labelled as British
- Supporting British producers by allowing consumers to identify genuine British meat
- Promoting superior British produce by highlighting the advantages of British produce
- Restoring trust and confidence in British food and labelling in general

The only problem is that food labelling is an EU competence - this is not something the UK can introduce unilaterally. Trying to bring in compulsory country of origin labelling would certainly rock the boat with the Commission and other member states - even if the UK only extended this rule to UK producers selling within the UK.

France, Belgium, and Finland have in the past introduced similar domestic rules on beef, but this was in the wake of the very public health scare caused by BSE and after permission from the Commission. This eventually led to EU-wide rules for compulsory country of origin labelling for beef in order to restore confidence in the market and inform consumers.

These rules were introduced only after a lengthy dispute between the UK and France over the safety of British beef. Implementing this campaign is likely to spark long and difficult political negotiations at EU level.


Anonymous said...

So is what they are proposing illegal then? Or just maybe illegal?

Open Europe blog team said...

The proposals are not illegal per se. But the proposals are likely to require negotiations with the Commission. Under current regulations, member states have to consult the Commission if they want to change country of origin labelling requirements.