Delay to compulsory beef labelling angers French
By Philip Clarke
COMPULSORY labelling of beef, including details of where and when the animal was slaughtered, will apply throughout the EU from next September.
Originally it was intended to bring in such a system from Jan 1, 2000. But farm ministers meeting in Brussels last week agreed the databases and passport systems were not yet ready in enough member states to make it work.
They wanted to delay the regulation for 12 months. But MEPs, also debating the issue in Strasbourg, said eight months was quite long enough.
As such, the new rules are due to come in on Sept 1, 2000. Tougher labelling laws, including details of where the animal was reared, as well as slaughtered, will come into play from Jan 1, 2003.
The decision has come as a blow to the French, who wanted the immediate introduction of EU-wide labelling. France already operates its own voluntary system for domestic meat, (Viande Francaise), and was pressing strongly to be allowed to state the national identity of imported beef.
An irate French farm minister, Jean Glavany, said France had been badly let down. He claimed that country of origin labelling was part of the "protocol of understanding" reached last month between Paris, London and Brussels for lifting the French ban on British beef. The intransigence of the commission and other member states meant the ban must stay in place.
But this was vehemently denied by food safety commissioner, David Byrne, who said the two issues were totally unrelated. The date-based export scheme already ensured full traceability for British beef, which could be labelled as having been produced under the scheme.
"This does not undermine the capacity for France to lift the ban. To blame what went on in council does not give the full picture. In fact I would not consider it to be accurate at all," he said.
• Jan 1 to Aug 31 2000 Voluntary labelling for nationally-produced beef allowed at retail level.
• Sept 1 2000 Compulsory labelling of beef to be introduced, giving details of time and place of slaughter, category of animal and maturation time.
• Jan 1 2003 Compulsory labelling extended, including country of birth, fattening and slaughter.