Blog: Katy AskewMEPs back country of origin meat regs

Katy Askew | 12 February 2015

The European Parliament has backed calls to create new country of origin meat labelling regulations in processed foods.

MEPs called on the European Commission to design legislative proposals that would foster greater transparency in the food chain. The move follows a groundswell of public support for such action following the 2013 horsemeat scandal.

Environment Committee chair Giovanni La Via said: "After the horse meat scandal, it is now up to us to regain consumers' trust. We are asking the Commission to come up with a legislative proposal with a mandatory country of origin labelling, because this will help to enhance transparency and to provide clear and complete information to the consumers."

Regain consumer trust? More than two years on from when the saga first broke? For an institution known for its bureaucracy and red tape, this somewhat delayed response will be seen by many as in fitting Brussels style.

The food sector has worked hard over the past two years to regain consumer trust and convince people that they can believe what they read on the label. In particular, innovation in ready meals has seen growth at the premium end of the sector - although frozen ready meal sales remain pressured.

For many in the food industry, an additional - and costly - regulatory burden will be seen as too little, too late, to have a significant impact on consumer trust. And, at a time when European consumers are tightening their belts, another layer of costs that will either have to be passed down the chain or absorbed by food makers themselves is unlikely to meet a warm welcome. 

Indeed, industry body FoodDrinkEurope stressed its "strong concern" over "the impact of such a mandatory requirement for businesses, consumers and the environment".

FoodDrinkEurope commented: "Companies all across Europe, small and large alike, would be negatively affected. Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), who make up 99% of the European food and drink industry, and particularly those located in border regions, are likely to feel the impact even more."

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