Consumers must wait until 2020 to be sure of chicken origins

Labelling of foreign chicken ‘made in Wicklow’ is lawful, says Food Safety Authority

Kerry Foods said the ‘Made in Wicklow’ claim refers to the product being cooked, cooled, sliced, packaged and labelled in Co Wicklow. The chicken itself is sourced ‘from Europe’.

Kerry Foods said the ‘Made in Wicklow’ claim refers to the product being cooked, cooled, sliced, packaged and labelled in Co Wicklow. The chicken itself is sourced ‘from Europe’.

 

Consumers will have to wait until after April 2020 until they can be sure of the provenance of agricultural products, it has emerged after a row over “Wicklow” chicken.

Members of the Irish Farmers Association picketed the Shillelagh, Co Wicklow plant of Kerry Foods on Friday in protest that the group was selling pre-packaged chicken slices bearing the description “made in Wicklow”, when in fact the chicken was not produced in Ireland.

Kerry Foods initially said the chicken slices sold under the group’s Denny label were produced from chicken raised in Brazil, but later amended this to say all its chicken and pork was sourced from the EU.

Addressing the protest in Shillelagh IFA Poultry committee chairman Andy Boylan said chicken growers were demanding a commitment from Kerry Foods to support Irish-produced chicken.

Mr Boylan said the clarification from the company “only adds to the general confusion for consumers”. He said the IFA wants the country-of-origin of the primary source of meat used in prepared foods such as Denny products to be clearly stated on the packaging.

This was necessary to “stop misleading Irish consumers who thought they were buying locally-produced food”, he said.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland said under EU legislation country of origin labelling is mandatory for some prepacked products, but generally not for processed foods.

“So in other words a product could be determined under EU legislation as originating from a particular country, if it underwent substantial transformation in that country,” the authority said in a statement.

However, the authority added that it recognises “that for most consumers when they see origin indicated on a product particularly one that contains meat, they assume that the indication refers to the meat ingredient and not to the product itself”.

The authority said this had been noted by the EU which will apply new rules from April 1st, 2020. Under these rules, if a label states that the product comes from a particular location or uses graphics implying the product is from a particular country, then they will have to indicate where the principal ingredient came from.

New rules

In the case of a product that contains chicken and states “made in Ireland” but the chicken ingredient came from a country other than Ireland, then from April next year the food business must:

(a) indicate the country of origin or place of provenance of the primary ingredient in question; or

(b) indicate that the country of origin or place of provenance of the primary ingredient is different to that of the food.

A spokeswoman said however as this was EU legislation there was little that could legally be done to force food processors here to be more descriptive before the new rules come in to force.

But Mr Boylan said the legislation was a “loophole”.

“This loophole in the current labelling legislation that Kerry Foods are exploiting to mislead consumers reinforces the importance of trusting the Bord Bia Quality Assurance label,” he said.

He said “poultry farmers have had their margins squeezed with all inputs increasing by 15-30per cent in the past two years”.

“They need an increase to cover their costs, and don’t want to see an Irish food company, Kerry Foods, and their brand Denny which is perceived as an Irish brand, using imported product.”

Mr Boylan said the Irish consumer “values and trusts Irish poultry and all food processors should support locally produced chicken”.

“For Kerry Foods to import chicken from across the globe when the most efficiently produced chicken is produced on their doorstep here is a disgrace and needs to be rectified.”

In a statement, Kerry Foods said it was one of the largest purchasers of meat in Ireland, and only used industry trusted approved suppliers.

“All our Denny chicken is sourced from Europe from trusted suppliers that meet our strict quality criteria. Our packaging fully complies with the strict EU labelling regulations.”

“The “Made in Wicklow” claim refers to the product being cooked, cooled, sliced, packaged and labelled in Co Wicklow. Our Denny Chicken is fully prepared and packaged on our Shillelagh site, Co Wicklow where we employ 750 people.”