Fairer Food? But for who? A Consultation on Labelling

A consultation has been launched on proposed food labelling changes. The UK government, the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive jointly published this consultation.  The consultation closes on 7 May 2024.

Key areas:

1. Country of origin - proposals around clearer display of origin information on certain foods.

2. Method of production - proposals on mandatory labels and a five-tier system for pork, chicken, and eggs products.

The proposals for fairer food labelling are intended to ensure greater transparency around the origin of food and methods of production.

The consultation looks at how to improve country of origin labelling for certain goods, including how and where this information is displayed and what products should be included. For example, if imported pork is cured into bacon in the UK and features a Union Jack, exploring ways to make it more obvious to consumers that the pig was reared abroad – such as increasing the size of the country of origin text, or placing it on the front of the packet.

It also sets out proposals to require ‘method of production’ labelling on pork, chicken and eggs. These include a mandatory five-tier label for both domestic and imported products which would differentiate between those that fall below, meet and exceed baseline UK animal welfare regulations.

This would be required on  all domestic and imported unprocessed pork, chicken and eggs and certain prepacked and loose minimally processed products with pork, chicken or egg.

The consultation also seeks views on whether it should be mandatory requirement to state the origin of meat, seafood and dairy products outside of the home, for example on menus in cafes and restaurants, to give consumers access to the same information while dining out.

The consultation was announced by the Environment Secretary at the Oxford Farming Conference in January, and builds on commitments in the Government food strategy - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) and as highlighted in our Food Trends for 2024 blog Key food trends for 2024 - Mills & Reeve (mills-reeve.com)

It follows recently announced measures designed to support farmers and promote fairness in the supply chain, including new regulations to ensure fair and transparent contracts for dairy farmers.

Although this has noble objectives it may well cause much greater costs and red tape as well as loss of flexibility within the food supply chain.

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