Food labelling changes 'could prevent repeat of horsemeat scandal'

17th January 2014 - Fine Cut

Food manufacturers in the European Union (EU) should be expected to label produce in a manner that ensures members of the public are aware of the origin of what they are consuming, the members of the European Parliament have claimed.

EU officials have argued that changes to the identification of items would prevent a repeat of the 2012 horsemeat scandal, during which inspections revealed that the meat featured in products that had been labelled as beef.

Members of European Parliament have been involved in discussions reacting to the scandal, calling on the Commission to suggest new laws to avoid similar situations in the future.

The campaigners said the central governing body should suggest legislation to "improve traceability in the food chain by introducing mandatory labelling for those meat products specifying place of birth, rearing and the location of slaughter".

In addition, officials claimed identification should be provided to specify place of origin for milk and milk products, unprocessed foods, meat used as ingredient, single-ingredient products and ingredients representing more than 50 per cent of a food product".

Legal protection for food industry whistleblowers and member states was also suggested by members of parliament, who approved a resolution by 654 votes to 24.

Mairead McGuinness, member of European Parliament for Ireland East, told the Irish Times that the ballot would advance the issue of origin labelling for meat in processed foods.

She added: "From road salt used in foods, to the marketing of regular eggs as organic, to the horse meat scandal - all are examples of an ever-increasing crime of 'food fraud'. Recent incidences have created a paradox whereby food is now safer than heretofore, yet consumers' trust is low."

Ms McGuinness also noted that although general food law states that labels must not be misleading to consumers, there is currently no agreed definition of food fraud and the application varies significantly among European governments.

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