6 July 2000
MEPs reject beef gender labelling

By Philip Clarke

EURO-MPs voted this morning to remove the requirement to label beef with category of animal, putting pressure on EU regulators to follow suit.

The plan is included in controversial new labelling laws under which packs of beef in shops will have to say where and when the animal was slaughtered.

But plans to also specify whether the beef comes from a bull, steer, cow or heifer have been condemned by UK farming and meat organisations. The separate handling and slower processing would add 10% to costs.

Following a concerted lobbying campaign, which saw senior NFU officials pressing the case in Strasbourg, MEPs voted by 330 to 172 to reject the clause.

“This parliament never wanted compulsory category labelling,” said Elspeth Attwooll, Lib-Dem MEP for Scotland. “I am pleased we have continued to act in the best interests of EU beef producers.”

The decision puts parliament on a collision course with EU farm ministers, who have already said they want categorisation.

Urgent conciliation talks will be held between the two parties and the commission in Brussels next week to try and thrash out a compromise ahead of a crucial Farm Council meeting on 17 July.

The new regulations are due to take effect from 1 September.