Britain’s big retailers have agreed to label pork and pork products with their country of origin.

The voluntary labelling code of practice aims to give clear and unambiguous information about country of origin on packs of pork, bacon and ham.

DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn launched the code at NFU annual conference in Birmingham on Tuesday (23 February).

Industry leaders described it as a watershed for the pig sector, which has campaigned for more than a decade for better pork labelling.

Mr Benn said he expected all major retailers to sign up and join those who had already decided to end confusion for shoppers.

“If they don’t their customers should ask them why they’re not in favour of clear, honest labelling.”

The code aims to ensure that the country of origin of pork used in processed products is clearly displayed on the pack.

Terms such as “Produced in the UK” can be ambiguous if origin is not qualified, the code says.

Companies adhering to the code have committed to providing clear information such as “Produced in the UK using pork from Country X.”

Stewart Houston, chairman of BPEX and the National Pig Association, said consumers, producers and processors would all benefit from the code.

“Clear labelling is great news for everyone in the supply chain,” he said.

Companies committed to the code include Aada, Baxter Storey, Marks & Spencer, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, The Cooperative, Waitrose and Whitbread.

The code was developed by the Pig Meat Supply Chain Task Force, which brings together retailers, industry stakeholders and the government.

The supply chain will now seek to encourage more retailers and food service companies to sign up to the code before it is launched in April.

A planned website will give consumers a list of those businesses which have signed up to the code.

For full conference coverage see our NFU 2010 Conference special report page