Dylan Sharpe is the Head of Media Relations for the Countryside Alliance.
You might think that if you see a British flag or the letters 'UK' on the front of meat packaging, it means that that animal came from a British farm. But you’d be wrong. Under the current EU regulations, if a country of origin is shown on a food label it refers to the place the product was last processed. So sausages made in Britain using Danish pork can legitimately be labelled as British sausages.
A YouGov poll for a new report by the Countryside Alliance out today, has shown that almost half of people look at country of origin labelling when choosing which product to buy (double the number that look at the nutritional information), and 74 per cent of people thought it was important that the meat products they buy have a British country of origin.
Of course consumers should be free to choose food from any country. But choice is only as good as the information that is available. Clear labels – which do exactly what they say – empower rather than restrict choice. However, only 39 per cent of people knew that a British flag or UK tag on a meat label meant that the animal was processed in the Britain. Therefore only 39 per cent of people know what ‘British’ means on a meat label under the current legislation.
The legislation on country of origin labelling is also fundamentally unfair to UK producers and farmers. British farmers have to produce meat to some of the highest animal welfare and production standards in the world, and have had more regulation imposed on them than other EU and non-EU producers. Yet the products produced under these higher standards are not easily distinguishable when they are on the shelves of supermarkets and retailers.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that this strange set of rules and regulations has come from the EU, and next week the European Parliament will vote on a proposal which could make country of origin labelling compulsory for all meat produce. This is what the Countryside Alliance is calling for: labelling that is honest, fair and simple. Mandatory country of origin labelling would be more honest to the consumer; would mean a fairer deal for the farmer and food producer; and would be very simple to do.
We have several allies in this campaign. The Conservatives launched a similar campaign when in opposition led by Nick Herbert, and Farming Minister Jim Paice has said that honest labelling is one of his priorities. Tim Farron, President of the Liberal Democrats, has also leant his support to our campaign and we have been praised by various TV chefs and cooks including Clarissa Dickson-Wright.
It is now up to the European Parliament to make the necessary change. You can help us make sure they do by lobbying your MEP here.