7 July 2000
Union applauds gender labelling vote

By FWi staff

THE National Farmers Union has applauded yesterdays decision by the European Parliament to reject plans to include the sex of the animal on retail packs of beef.

If this requirement were to enter into force, it would place many additional costs on farmers and abattoirs, who would have to establish separate transport, handling and processing lines.

“We are pleased that our objections to this extreme suggestion have been heeded,” said NFU deputy president, Tim Bennett, following a trip to Strasbourg to lobby MEPs on the issue.

The vote in the parliament was comprehensive.

Despite the pleas of EU farm commissioner, Franz Fischler, that deleting “category” – including labelling the meat with gender of the beast – would represent a renationalisation of the labelling system, the MEPs supported the amendment by 330 votes to 172.

Parliament also wants the labels to state the country of origin of minced beef, if that is not the country where the meat is prepared.

The new EU-wide laws are due to come into effect on 01 September.

Beef labels will also have to show the ID number of the animal or herd involved, and the number and member state of the slaughterhouse and cutting hall.

But doubts are now being expressed whether this timetable can be met.

The amendments put the European parliament on collision course with the Farm Council, which has already voted in favour of including category of animal.

Attempts are now being made in Brussels to sort out a compromise, ahead of a crucial meeting of farm ministers on 17 July.

One possibility is for the definition of “category” to be limited to “adult beef” or “veal”, rather than the full range of “young bull, old bull, steer, heifer, cow or calf” the commission is after.

Certainly the parliaments decision puts more pressure on the commission and council to have a rethink, though time is running out.

“It is vital a decision on this is reached soon,” said Mr Bennett. “The commission can be in no doubt about the growing consensus that this element of the proposal is not wanted.”