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The Government is being urged to consider introducing mandatory origin labelling for meat and milk in processed products.
In a letter to Defra Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom, NFU Scotland, the NFU, NFU Cymru and National Pig Association say this move would give shoppers more choice and confidence when buying British food and increase transparency in the supply chain.
In a separate letter NFU Scotland has written to Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, requesting that the Scottish Government work with the UK Government to introduce mandatory country of origin labelling on processed meat and dairy products.
The organisations have also expressed their concerns over the loss of food name protection as the UK negotiates a new deal with the EU post-Brexit.
The call for Government action comes on the day that food labelling regulation is debated at a high profile event in Westminster. It also coincides with Red Tractor Week, where farmers up and down the country, including Scotland, will be talking to shoppers outside major supermarkets, explaining about where UK food comes from; the standards used to produce it and why they can trust the Red Tractor logo.
The joint statement to the Secretary of State said: “More needs to be done to make labelling clearer and all our organisations are lobbying hard on this issue.
“The French government is now implementing a two-year trial of country of origin labelling for meat and milk in processed products while other European governments have outlined their plans to implement country of origin labelling for processed foods.
“We believe that the UK Government should move now to introduce origin labelling for meat and milk in processed products which would provide greater transparency.
“With the Brexit negotiations on the horizon, this could be the start of strong national legislation to ensure we have clear country of origin labelling in the future.
“It is clear that some retailers and manufacturers feel origin is important by going above what is required in law and through voluntary principles. However, the inconsistency of voluntary commitment can sometimes be the source of confusion among shoppers.
“We know more British people want more British food on their plates. A survey carried out by the NFU in May 2016 found that 60% of the public often or always look specifically for British produce when shopping for food.
“Farmers and growers produce high quality, nutritious products that carry the Red Tractor logo signalling excellent traceability and food safety, and as an industry we should be able to showcase these products to shoppers through mandatory country of origin labelling. Labelling needs to provide accurate, clear and relevant information so consumers can make an informed choice.
“It’s important to also stress that that we do want to see the continued use of food name protections in the UK that guarantees authenticity and origin and prevents imitation products from using the name. This includes some of the UK's most famous foods such as Scotch beef and lamb; Stilton cheese, Westcountry beef and lamb, and Welsh beef and lamb.
“We believe the use of the European Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) have been vital in protecting food provenance in the marketplace.”
This press release can be found here