EU - Two reports from the European Commission conclude that the benefits from new mandatory country of origin labelling requirements on food do not clearly outweigh the costs.
The reports say that voluntary labelling rules seem to be the most suitable solution.
The first report looks at the feasibility of different options for mandatory origin labelling for dairy products and for minor meats, notably horse meat, rabbit meat and meat from game and birds (farmed and wild).
Labelling rules are already in place for beef meat, pig meat, poultry meat, sheep meat and goat meat.
The report says that considering consumer attitudes towards additional information and potential extra costs, as well as any technical and administrative requirements arising for businesses and public authorities, for dairy products there would be an uneven impact on producers, making it more burdensome for some than for others.
It says it also seems that consumers are not willing to pay more for the additional information.
The report suggests that the existing options for voluntary labelling could address some consumer demands while retaining flexibility for Member States and food operators.
Commenting on the European Commission report on Country of Origin Labelling, Dr Judith Bryans, Chief Executive of Dairy UK, said: “We are disappointed to see that the Commission report found that voluntary Country of Origin Labelling may be a more suitable option for dairy products than a mandatory system.
“There is obvious consumer demand for clearer information on the country of origin of food products as illustrated by the existing rules for fresh meat within the Food Information to Consumers Regulation. Therefore, it makes sense to take the next step and introduce these requirements for milk and milk used as an ingredient in dairy products.
“A mandatory labelling system would help the UK dairy industry showcase its products and reassure consumers on their provenance. Our milk, our cheeses, our yoghurts and all our great British dairy products are a staple of the UK diet and we should be proud of what we produce.
“Country of Origin Labelling should be more than just an option but a strong recognition of the British dairy industry’s hard work to deliver nutritious and wholesome products to consumers.
Dairy UK has called for mandatory Country of Origin Labelling for many years, with the support of Defra and the Dairy All-Party Parliamentary Group, and will keep a close eye on further developments.
For the "minor meats", the report similarly concludes 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 per cent 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 also looks at the costs and benefits of labelling rules, including the impact on the internal market and on international trade, and 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.
The report recommends the introduction mandatory country of origin labelling for unprocessed prepacked minor meats if the cost is within the consumers’ range of willingness to pay.
It also recommends mandatory origin labelling to indicate country of birth, countries of rearing and country of slaughter for pre-packed unprocessed horse meat.
It also calls for mandatory origin labelling to indicate country of birth, rearing and slaughter in prepacked unprocessed rabbit meat and farmed game and mandatory origin labelling to indicate country of hunting for pre-packed unprocessed wild game meat.
The reports will be transmitted to the European Parliament and the Council.
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