Consumers should have the right to know the cheese and milk they buy is British.
That is the defiant message farm minister George Eustice will argue today (Tuesday 16 June) as part of a push for country-of-origin labelling to be adopted across Europe.
Mr Eustice will discuss the merits of introducing mandatory labelling on dairy products with fellow agriculture ministers in Luxembourg.
Country of origin labels, he will argue, would give consumers clarity that any milk or cheese labelled as from the UK was produced here.
The current rules mean consumers could believe they are buying British simply because a product has been imported and then processed or packaged in the UK.
A recent report commissioned by the European Commission suggested that introducing mandatory labelling would result in significant costs and disrupt cross-border trade.
But Mr Eustice will argue that the cost would be low if the focus was on dairy products such as milk, cheese, cream and butter.
In addition, a clear labelling scheme that applies across the EU would help support the UK dairy industry and meet the growing demand for British produce both at home and overseas.
“We know people place a premium on buying British and I believe they have the right to know where the milk, cheese and butter they buy has come from,” said Mr Eustice, speaking ahead of the meeting.
“We successfully campaigned for country-of-origin labels on beef, lamb, pork and poultry, which has allowed consumers to show their support for the British meat industry.
“Extending it to dairy products is a sensible next step and will be a significant boost for our hard-working dairy farmers.”
Compulsory country of origin labelling for unprocessed, fresh and frozen pre-packaged pork, poultry, sheep and goat meat came into force across Europe on 1 April, 2015.
Meanwhile, origin labelling for beef has already been compulsory for more than a decade.
Defra, the Dairy All-Party Parliamentary Group, the NFU and dairy trade association Dairy UK have called for mandatory county of origin labelling on dairy products for years.