18 February 2000

Tougher label rules are hitting smaller firms

EFFORTS by MAFF to impose tougher labelling laws on food products in the UK are squeezing smaller manufacturers and leading to unfair competition with the rest of Europe.

According to Mike Newitt, chairman of the Provision Trade Federation, which represents processors of traditional foods such as bacon, butter and cheese, there is a limit to the amount of legislation these low margin products can bear.

"Of course, they must be safe and nutritious and informatively labelled," he told the federations annual dinner this week. "But is it really necessary to provide a label giving the meat content of simple products such as bacon? This interpretation is not applied in Denmark or Holland, the other main suppliers to the UK market."

MAFFs habit of "gold-plating" EU legislation was unnecessary and potentially damaging to the agri-food industry, especially for smaller businesses which are less able to bear the cost.

The PTF is particularly critical of government demands for country of origin labelling of raw materials in foods. Guidelines to discourage imported pigmeat being cured in the UK and labelled British are "reasonable", it says. But the blanket approach rushed in by MAFF earlier this month has damaging knock-on effects for a wide range of other products. &#42