Are “country of origin” labels necessary?

13-02-2007 | | |

Under UK law, food that is processed in the UK can be labelled as made in the UK, even if its ingredients are sourced elsewhere.

Caroline Lucas, a British Green MEP, yesterday called for a complete ban on what she termed “meat swapping.” She said eggs and chicks were often exported from the UK to Hungary, raised and slaughtered there and then sent back to Britain to be processed and sold.
Kevin Pearce, head of food and farming at the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said: “Most of the damage to the industry [from bird flu] is from the uncertainty and confusion in the minds of consumers. One way for people to be clearer about the food they are eating is to have products very clearly labelled.”
The NFU has called for food to be clearly labelled with its country of origin as the Food Standards Agency said it hoped to confirm this week whether or not poultry infected with the H5N1 virus had reached supermarket shelves.
EU law requires that food manufacturers be able to identify the source of their suppliers, as well as the businesses to which they sell products; but it does not require them to track “internal traceability” – that is, keep records on the movement of ingredients the whole way through their supply chain.
Consultants say that well-run food companies should go beyond the requirements of the law, and keep such records. Lawrence Hutter, a consultant in Deloitte‘s consumer business group, said: “The regulation is not necessarily as tight as it could be.”

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