One More Step Towards Fair Labelling For Consumers

06 July 2011
Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish full member on the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has given a cautious welcome to the European Parliament approval of the compromise agreement on food information to consumers.
The new rules, agreed between Parliament and Council two weeks ago and approved by the plenary by 606 votes to 46, with 26 abstentions, extend mandatory place of origin labelling to all primary meat products not currently covered by legislation (i.e. pigs, sheep, goats and poultry). However, labelling for meat used in processed foods, other meat products, milk and dairy products, unprocessed foods and ingredients representing more than 50% of the food must wait for studies from the Commission which will take 2-3 years to be published. These reports will also consider the feasibility of mandating separate labelling for places of birth, rearing and slaughtering if different.  

Nutrition labelling will be mandatory for energy, fats, saturates, sugar, salt, protein and carbohydrates, but not for transfats, which will be subject to an impact assessment. The labelling will be at the back-of-pack, not at the front as Alyn's group demanded. Such nutritional information can be expressed per 100g/ml or per portion, and alcohol will be exempt while separate legislation is prepared. The issue of labelling meat slaughtered without stunning has been postponed and shifted into animal welfare legislation.

Alyn said:

"While I'm pleased that we have come to some agreement in this extremely long-running legislative file, it's disappointing that our progress for consumers, who have the right and the interest to know what is in the food they eat and where it comes from, has been so slow. It is definitely a positive that we have finally secured compulsory place of origin labelling for meat, but too many key issues have been kicked into the long grass - particularly with regard to ensuring that consumers are not misled by supposedly "Scottish" meat which has in fact been raised elsewhere. Our consumers want to buy quality Scottish produce and they should be provided with the information to allow them to do so.

"Transfats is another issue on which I have campaigned for a long time: they have been linked to coronary heart disease, diabetes and obesity, and serve no useful purpose and have no nutritional value. Ideally I would like to see an EU-wide ban, similar to what has already been done in Denmark, but mandatory labelling is an absolute minimum. Unfortunately, the industry lobby has won, and again this issue has been pushed down the road.  

"Though I'm in favour of clearly labelling meat which has been slaughtered without stunning, I accept that this fits better in the animal welfare laws, and will work for a solution that consumers, animal rights groups and faith organisations can accept."