MEPs call for country of origin labelling of meat in processed foods


Processed food [JaBB/Flickr]

Meat used as an ingredient in processed foods, such as lasagne, should have a country of origin label which is already the case for bovine fresh meat, said the Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee on Wednesday evening (22 January) in a non-binding resolution.

The MEPs said the Commission needs to propose new legislation in order to rebuild consumer confidence in the wake of the 2013 horsemeat scandal, and other food fraud cases.

The non-binding vote, passed by 48 votes to 15 with 4 abstentions, urges the Commission to follow up a 2013 report with legislative proposals to make it mandatory to state the country of origin of meat used in processed foods, in order to ensure more transparency throughout the food chain, and to better inform consumers in the EU.

The MEPs pointed out that the Commission’s own report acknowledges that more than 90% of consumer respondents consider it important that the origin of meat should be labeled on processed food products. This is one of the several factors that may influence consumer behaviour, they said.

Based on the findings of research done by the French consumer organisation Que Choisir, the MEPs emphasised that estimates of the measure’s likely impact on prices, diverge widely from those in Commission’s report, and demand a clearer picture. The evaluation should be carried out in conjunction with consumer organisations, they said, and should not delay legislative proposals.

Camille Perrin, senior food policy officer at the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), acknowledged that costs are at the heart of the debate.

“While the Commission found origin labeling would spur a 15% to 50% price hike, results from France showed a pack of lasagne would only cost 1.5 euro cent more. We fully share the ENVI views that this wide gap undeniably calls for a sharp review of the actual costs generated by labeling origin,” Perrin stated. 

Regarding rules on voluntary origin labeling, Perrin said that consumers are entitled to know if bacon that claims to be British is actually made of pork from another country.

“While this is positive, let us not forget our key aim, which is to have processed meat origin labeling compulsory in the first place. This is only a first step. Our eyes are now on the whole Parliament when it votes in a few weeks’ time. We count on a similarly strong stance, urging the Commission to work on a proposal,” the food policy officer added.

French MEPs from the European People's Party (EPP), Françoise Grossetête and Angélique Delahaye, commented: 

"We are pleased that the European Parliament finally voted clearly in favour of a mandatory origin labeling of meat in ready meals. Waiting for binding legislation in this area, we have tabled amendments calling on the Commission to enforce the rules already in force, providing for the labelling of the origin of the primary ingredients. This will increase transparency and traceability in the food chain, a major concern for European citizens."

On 17 December 2013, the Commission submitted a report to the European Parliament and the Council on the likely consequences of making it mandatory to state the country of origin or place of provenance of meat used as an ingredient. 

MEPs cite estimates that depending on the member state concerned, 30 to 50% of slaughtered meat is processed into meat ingredients for foodstuffs, mostly minced meat, meat preparations and meat products.

  • February 2015: The resolution is to be discussed along with an oral question to the Commission, and then put to a plenary session vote.

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