EU Parliament backs ‘country of origin’ meat labelling

Parliament votes to force producers to identify origin of meat used in processed food

The European Parliament has approved plans that would force food producers to identify the country of origin of meat used as an ingredient in processed foods.  File photograph: Patrick Seeger/EPA

The European Parliament has approved plans that would force food producers to identify the country of origin of meat used as an ingredient in processed foods. File photograph: Patrick Seeger/EPA

 

The European Parliament has given its backing to plans that would force food producers to identify the country of origin of meat used as an ingredient in processed foods.

A vote at a parliament sitting in Strasbourg called on the European Commission to come up with legislative proposals in order to rebuild consumer confidence in the wake of the horsemeat scandal and other food fraud cases.

Moves to have “country of origin” labelling introduced on processed foods have been championed by the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) and were backed by a European Commission report published in December 2013 which found that 90 per cent of consumers want to know where their meat comes from.

However, the Department of Agriculture expressed reservations about the measures ahead of the vote and sent a briefing note to MEPs warning it could lead to price rises for consumers.

The department echoed a European Commission claim that the price of processed foods containing meat could rise by 25 per cent if labelling was required to state whether the meat in a product came from within or outside the EU. It also said that the costs could climb by between 15 per cent and 50 per cent if food producers were forced to specify the actual country of origin.

The claims have been disputed by consumer groups and MEPs, who pointed out that estimates of the impact on prices, based on the findings of a French consumer organisation, diverged widely from those in the Commission’s report.

MEPs are now seeking more robust pricing information in the wake of the vote, and will seek an evaluation to be carried out in conjunction with consumer organisations, without delaying legislative proposals.

Vote welcomed

Dublin Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan, who had championed the labelling laws, welcomed the vote.

“It’s nearly two years since the horsemeat scandal, the biggest food fraud of the 21st century, and we still don’t have legislation on mandatory origin labelling for all meat, including meat as an ingredient,” she said.

The decision had struck “a blow to the corporate lobbying industry” and prioritised consumer health, she said.