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Food Labelling

Volume 515: debated on Thursday 9 September 2010

11. What plans her Department has to amend the food labelling standards for which it is responsible; and if she will make a statement. (14182)

14. What plans her Department has to amend the food labelling standards for which it is responsible; and if she will make a statement. (14185)

The Government have made a commitment to clear and honest food labelling. Our food labelling standards work remains focused on protecting consumers and enabling them to make informed choices, as well as ensuring a level playing field to promote the competitiveness of our food industry.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Does she agree that it is important that consumers across the UK are able to see clear and honest food labelling, particularly in relation to the country of origin of meat and dairy products, so that they know where animals have been farmed?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. We are negotiating on the proposed EU food information regulation, to ensure clarity in food labelling for consumers, especially on country of origin. That will ensure that unprocessed meat can be labelled as British only if it comes from an animal born, reared and slaughtered in the UK. Processed foods labelled as being made here will also have to show the origin of their main ingredient if that is from outside the UK.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for her answer. Will she go further and advise us how far she will push in the negotiations for the nations and regions of the UK to be reflected in labelling?

The negotiations have been ongoing for about three years, as the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) will confirm, but under the Belgian presidency it is hoped that a political agreement will be reached by the end of the year. The discussion is about country of origin labelling; regional identification is already permitted on labels and is an important part of the Government’s strategy to encourage the recognition and protection of good-quality regionally produced foods, with which all of us as consumers would readily identify.

Will the Secretary of State therefore speak to her Conservative MEPs to find out why they do not support food labelling through the European Parliament?

With respect, I believe that Conservative Members of the European Parliament did support honesty in labelling, and that has been a Conservative party commitment for as long as I can remember. The European Parliament is currently considering compulsory country of origin labelling, and we have not ruled out the option.