Food labelling

30 Oct 2008 12:05:49

Richard Bacon on food labelling

Richard_baconThe MP for South Norfolk, Richard Bacon, introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill yesterday. It seeks to improve food labelling, specifically in terms of the country of origin of a food item.

Mr Bacon told the House of Commons:

"Pork that has been imported from Denmark and then packaged in the UK may be called “Product of Britain”.

"The problem can apply to other food products, too. Butter churned in England using milk imported from Belgium should not, supposedly, be labelled “English”, but it can lawfully be described as “produced in England from milk”. Norwegian salmon that has been smoked in Scotland should not, supposedly, be called “Scottish”, but it can lawfully be described as “salmon smoked in Scotland”. Slaughtering in this country would count, so that “British lamb” could mean imported lambs slaughtered and packaged in the UK. Products can be labelled as “produced in the UK” when all the ingredients come from outside the country. There is concern that some companies have taken advantage of these slack regulations, and label their products with the Union Jack accompanied by slogans such as “traditional British food” or “great British recipe” when, in fact, they are not produced in this country.

"There is, obviously, a duty on consumers to read the labels in the first place, but there is also a need to prevent labels, presentation and other information from being misleading about the product. Country of origin is an area where there is particular potential for consumers to be misled. Clear mandatory country of origin labelling would significantly reduce the risk that consumers making a food purchasing decision would be misled, or in practice be unable to use their consumer power to support domestic producers if that is what they wish to do."

The Bill's second reading will be on 7 November. There are jokes to be had here about pork barrel politics and MPs bringing home the bacon. We will struggle manfully to avoid them.