Labelling changes can help consumers buy Scottish and UK

A new labelling initiative is needed to help inform consumers about the origins of their food and drink and allow them make more informed choices, NFU Scotland has said.

NFUS president Martin Kennedy says poor labelling and mislabelling have been a problem for a very long time, and many consumers are still being “hoodwinked” into thinking they are buying Scottish or UK produce when they are not.

“The reality is because of co-mingling and mixed messaging on labelling, consumers are not actually sure of where that product is coming from,” said Mr Kennedy.

See also: Morrisons launches ‘British’ section online after campaign

“That’s why NFU Scotland is proposing the introduction of a simple label and this would be applicable on menus and in the food service, where nobody ever asks where the food comes from.

“One-third of our food consumption comes from food service. When you go to a restaurant, who asks the question [about origin of food]? This could be on the menu as well.”

NFUS has suggested the label would be red, cover less than 5% of the packaging and state that more than 50% of this product is made from ingredients sourced from outside of the UK, where applicable.

“It would have no implications on existing labelling. This is about information to the consumer so that when they buy that product, they know exactly where it has come from,” Mr Kennedy added.

NFU Scotland is calling for support from both the UK and Scottish governments, food processors, the food-service sector and especially retailers for the labelling changes.

The labelling initiative would properly recognise the high standards of the Scottish and UK farming industry and make it easier for all parts of the food chain to support domestic production, Mr Kennedy said.

Asked how the concept would be funded, Mr Kennedy suggested that retailers and the food service industry should foot the bill, not farmers.

Trade deals blow

The NFUS leader said the labelling changes are necessary to help consumers better support Scottish and UK farmers as they had been “sold down the river” by the UK government striking cheap food trade deals with countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Kennedy said there was a great opportunity to address food labelling under the Good Food Nation Act, expected to be introduced early next year in the Scottish parliament.

Cabinet secretary for rural affairs Mairi Gougeon has committed to set up a meeting with NFUS and Food Standards Scotland on this issue. Discussions between NFUS and other UK farming unions are also taking place.

Mr Kennedy said the labelling scheme must be UK-wide, but admitted it “could take years to introduce”.

See more