The NFU and NPA say that new European Commission rules on food labelling may lead to massive confusion for British shoppers keen to buy meat produced in the UK.
The Commission voted to introduce mandatory ‘reared’ and ‘slaughtered’ labelling. But the NFU and NPA say the rules should have extended to ‘born’, ‘reared’ and ‘slaughtered’ – a decision which may increase consumer confidence at a time when the industry is still reeling following the horsemeat scandal.
The two organisations are concerned that labels could give the impression that a product is from the UK when it was in fact born in another country.
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?NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond said: “We want to see the British Government, retailers and the food processing industry take a clear position to safeguard the integrity of the UK brand because we are concerned about the potential to mislead consumers on the use of flags and other marketing claims on origins of meat.
“Since 2010, in the Country of Origin Industry Voluntary Guidelines, retailers and processors have been following good practice 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 UK 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 UK 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 revealed that 78% 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 UK. Additionally, 79% say that meat products with a Unionflag on the label should mean that the animal was born, reared and slaughtered in UK.