MEPs reject Commission proposal on origin labelling of meat

  

The European Parliament endorsed on Thursday (6 February) a motion which rejects the new rules on origin labelling of meat that were tabled by the European Commission following last year's 'horsegate' scandal.

While the Commission wants the place of rearing and slaughtering to be labelled, it has not proposed mandatory labelling of the place of birth, lawmakers complained.

Under the Commission proposal, pork could have been labelled as “reared” in an EU country if the pig had lived there for just four months, or for just one month in the case of poultry.

“Consumers want the full picture of the meat supply chain, which is why I am calling for the place of birth, rearing and slaughter to be labelled," said Glenis Willmott, a British Labour MEP (Socialists & Democrats), who drafted the Parliament resolution, which was adopted with 368 votes to 207 and 20 abstentions.

"Many people want to know whether animals have come from places with good welfare standards, and how far they have been transported, for ethical and environmental reasons," Wilmott added.

Carl Schlyter MEP, the Greens' spokesperson on food safety, agreed that the Commission proposal was not good enough and that recent food scandals had underlined the need for full transparency in the food production chain.

"Displaying this information is also an important tool for meat-eaters who want to choose to eat meat from animals that did not suffer the stress of long-distance transport, given the failure to reduce animal transport times in the EU," Schlyter said.

While the Parliament's vote isn't binding, MEPs hope the Commission will heed the outcome and come forward with a new proposal providing for "full transparency".

Horsegate could happen again

Exactly one year after horsemeat was detected in products labelled as beef across Europe, prompting product withdrawals and government investigations into food chains, the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) said a similar scandal could easily happen again.

In an Interview with EurActiv, BEUC's director general, Monique Goyens, called for mandatory origin labelling for meat in processed meals and bigger penalties for food fraud.

"We need words to be turned into action so that fraud can no longer occur. We should keep in mind that meat is not even in the top 10 food products most subject to fraud," Goyens said.

The horsemeat scandal broke when Swedish frozen-food company Findus withdrew all its beef lasagna ready meals from supermarkets after tests revealed they contained up to 100% horsemeat.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA), a British government body, gave food companies a week to test all their beef products upon discovery of the mislabelled products. The UK agency instructed consumers to return the Findus lasagnas and Tesco burgers as a precaution, but said there was no evidence to suggest that horsemeat itself was a food safety risk.

Timeline: 
  • 13 Dec. 2014: New EU food labelling legislation applies.
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Comments

john  white's picture

We need to know the country of origin where the product as come from. Just by putting EU on a label is not good enough.

Yvan Biefnot's picture

I think that the label should also mention how the animal was slaughtered.

Vicky Johnson's picture

Right now US unregulated horses are deemed Canadian and Mexican because they are slaughtered there. It is estimated that 70% of Canadian horsemeat is from US unregulated, largely adulterated horses. US horse dealers are allowed to fabricate affidavits immediately after they purchase a horse and ship it the same day - claiming the horse has not had prohibited drugs for 6 months. If there is no requirement for where the animal was born, you will never know where that animal came from. They will declare them as 'reared' in the country they were slaughtered in even if they only have them for a day. There can never be two classifications of a species - food and non-food, that will not cross over, by the greed of man.