EC opts out of new meat labelling guidelines

30th October 2013 - Fine Cut

The European Commission has rejected plans to introduce full country-of-origin labelling for products containing processed meats, it has emerged.

According to a report that is still to be finalised, the body is expected to recommend that the new approach would only mention the country where a source animal was slaughtered.

The Commission will make a recommendation on the subject by December 13th, under the terms of a European Union regulation on the provision of food information to consumers.

However, ministers across the region have asked Brussels to speed up the release of the report following the horsemeat scandal earlier this year.

Labelling has become an increasingly important aspect of food packaging for consumers in recent years, as more people begin to pay attention to the ingredients and fat content in particular products.

Items that are easily identifiable are also more likely to gain the trust of shoppers, who have previously been put off buying from supermarkets after horsemeat was found in a variety of foods.

Meat industry sources said the upcoming report could take the form of an impact assessment that considers a variety of scenarios for new legislation and picks the one that is the most cost-effective.

However, EU health commissioner Tonio Borg said mandatory information on meat country of origin will not solve all potential meat supply chain issues. In fact, the official said that even if stricter regulations had been in place earlier this year, the horsemeat scandal would not have been prevented - as this was brought about by mislabelling on an international scale.

Consumer groups have reacted angrily to suggestions that the regulations will be slackened.

Monique Goyens, director-general of the European Consumers' Organisation, said: "By giving up plans to label the origin of meat in sausages, lasagna and other meat-based processed foods, the European Commission has turned a blind eye to consumer's interests."

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