Step Forward For Food Information Transparency

16 June 2010
SNP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Mr Alyn Smith has today (Wednesday) hailed a vote in Parliament on food labelling as a major step forward in giving Scotland's consumers rights to know what they are eating.
The hugely complex vote saw a number of steps forward on transparency of information - though crucially the "traffic light" system of nutritional information was not approved - but a number of steps forward have nonetheless been made, particularly on the long-running issue of country of origin labelling for meat, with the Parliament approving mandatory information.

The Parliament also approved plans to clearly label meat from ritual slaughter (by 326 votes to 270) and approved by a massive majority (668 votes to 8) that meat from combined sources must be clearly labelled as such.

The Parliament also largely approved exemptions for alcohol from the legislation, on the grounds that alcohol is objectively not a food or nutritious product, so should be subject to a parallel, though distinct, regime which is currently under consideration by the European Commission.

Speaking after the vote, Smith said:

"This was a tricky vote, but on balance the report is a step forward for transparency and consumer power so we backed it, even if we would have liked to have seen tougher standards.  It was a shame in particular that the Traffic Light information system did not survive the vote as certainly I have had a great deal of lobbying on the issue from consumers who want to see it introduced.

"However, it is great news that COOL has finally been approved, and high time too.  We have top end, quality products in Scotland and it is in our interests to be able to distinguish them from those from other countries.

"Similarly, the vexed issue of ritual slaughter has, I think, been suitably sensitively handled.  I am not against ritual slaughter, though as a corollary to that freedom, see no objection to an obligation to label the meat derived from it as such, so that, again, consumers can make their own decisions.

"Exempting alcohol from the package made sense, though that is not to say I do not want to see as much information on alcohol bottles as on tins of beans, it is just that the legal basis is different, and I think it makes sense to deal with alcohol products individually rather than to lump them all in with food and nutrition.  We will be coming on to this subject soon enough.  However, one thing which we would have liked to see go through which did not was compulsory origin of whisky.  I believe this was a mistaken vote, and will be lobbying further to see an obligation on producers to indicate where their whisky comes from so that we can protect our Scotch."