Commission to fast-track food labelling report
The European Commission is to fast-track its report on country-of-origin food labelling by three months, EU health commissioner Tonio Borg said yesterday, following a meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Brussels.
The report, which had been due to be completed by the end of the year, will now be brought forward by three months, and is expected to be submitted to the commission by early autumn.
Mandatory for beef
While country-of-origin labelling is currently mandatory for fresh beef and will soon apply to other fresh meats, the European Commission is considering whether to extend country-of-origin labelling to processed meat products.
Mr Borg stressed that, while the horse meat issue had provided an opportunity to consider whether the time had come to introduce stringent legislation on food origin, country-of-origin labelling was entirely unrelated to the issue of mislabelled horse meat.
“These are two completely different things. Even if we had the place of origin legislation in place, this incident would have occurred just the same. This incident refers to the animal species of the product, not the meat product’s origin.”
The report is expected to be submitted to the commission by early autumn, he said, and it will then take action. He added that while he had an open mind on the issue, a growing number of member states were in favour of introducing the legislation.
Mr Borg also said it was unrealistic to expect the commission’s report to be completed by the end of June, as had been suggested by some member states.
“This is a complex issue . . . there are questions such as, what is the place of origin, does it include the place of slaughter and the place of birth of the animal? What is the effect as regards cost? Will it be a great administrative burden on SME’s?”
He also pointed out that some people had questioned the impact of such legislation on the internal market, with some viewing it as a veiled way of introducing protectionism.
Asked whether there were enough EU rules to prevent the kind of fraud that had been exposed by the horse meat scandal, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said there were not enough systems in place.