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    Consultation launched to improve country of origin labelling on food products

    Representative iStock image

    The government has on Tuesday launched a consultation, outlining plans to give shoppers more information about how and where their food is produced and ensure British farmers’ products get the recognition they deserve.

    The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said the proposals for ‘fairer food labelling’ will ensure greater transparency around the origin of food and methods of production.

    The consultation looks at how to improve country of origin labelling for certain goods, including how and where this information is displayed and what products should be included. For example, if imported pork is cured into bacon in the UK and features a Union Jack, exploring ways to make it more obvious to consumers that the pig was reared abroad – such as increasing the size of the country of origin text, or placing it on the front of the packet.

    It also sets out proposals to require ‘method of production’ labelling on pork, chicken and eggs. These include a mandatory five-tier label for both domestic and imported products which would differentiate between those that fall below, meet and exceed baseline UK animal welfare regulations.

    The consultation was announced by the environment secretary at the Oxford Farming Conference in January, and builds on commitments in the Government food strategy.

    “This government backs British farmers, who work hard to produce food to world-leading standards and maintain our nation’s food security. British consumers want to buy their produce, but too often products made to lower standards abroad aren’t clearly labelled to tell them apart,” environment secretary Steve Barclay said.

    “That is why I want to make labelling showing where and how food is produced fairer and easier to understand – empowering consumers to make informed choices and rewarding our British farmers for producing high-quality, high-welfare food.”

    Commenting, James Bailey, executive director of Waitrose, said: “We have a proud history supporting British farmers and are the leading retailer for animal welfare. Everyone deserves to know where their food comes from – how it was grown, reared or made.

    “Better information boosts demand for higher standards, as we’ve seen with mandatory egg labelling. Extending this to more products benefits shoppers, farmers, and animals.

    “We support the government’s efforts to improve transparency and ensure shoppers aren’t misled, while giving farmers recognition for their commitment to animal welfare.”

    The consultation also seeks views on whether it should be mandatory requirement to state the origin of meat, seafood and dairy products outside of the home, for example on menus in cafes and restaurants, to give consumers access to the same information while dining out as when cooking at home.

    The consultation will run for eight weeks, closing on 7 May.

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