Country of origin labelling for meat falls

Country of origin labelling is falling in supermarket meat aisles, according to a new government survey.

DEFRA analysed labels on more than 500 meat and dairy products bought from the major retailers and a number of independent shops.

The 2012 survey shows that the number of products labelled with country of origin dropped from 77% to 76% for meat products like bacon, ham, sausages and burgers, although products like pies and ready meals, which contain meat, saw a rise from 73% to 77%.

Country of origin labelling in cheese dropped from 77% to 76%, but it stayed the same on milk, at 54%, and on butter (100%).

A voluntary country of origin labelling was introduced in 2010 with the aim of encouraging more clarity over the provenance of food.

But despite the introduction of the system, farm minister Jim Paice said there had been little action from caterers and no overall improvement on foods in shops, with some manufacturers actually providing less information.

Mr Paice called on the food industry to raise its game so that consumers can make informed choices on production methods, environment and quality.

He has also written to the British Hospitality Association, asking for it to encourage its members to provide information on the origin of the main ingredients in meals.

Mr Paice said: “More than ever, people want to know where their food comes from, so it’s disappointing to see little improvement in the number of food products showing this information.

“Origin labelling helps people make informed choices and gives assurances on quality, production methods, and environmental impact. Whether it’s on a label, menu, or given verbally, I want to see all of industry making every effort to provide this information that the consumer has made it clear they want.”

Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, deputy food director at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Good labelling reinforces retailers’ commitment to British produce by helping customers make informed choices.

“Consumers used to this level of information from supermarkets will start looking for it wherever food is being sold, so the government is right to say that other sectors, such as catering, need to catch up.”

According to recent research from market intelligence company IGD, almost three-quarters of consumers considered where food is produced was important, while four out of 10 want to know more about where their food comes from. Eight out of 10 are interested in knowing more about meat and poultry.