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House of Commons Hansard
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Halal and Kosher Meat
12 June 2014
Volume 582
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1. If he will ensure that all halal and kosher meat is labelled at point of sale. [904168]

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In the first instance, the Government believe that it is for retailers and food outlets to provide their customers with such information. However, the European Commission is currently producing a study on options for compulsory method of slaughter labelling, and we will review the options when the report is published later this year.

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The Minister is a good man, and I am sure he must understand the strength of feeling among the public about this issue. Surely it is in the best interests of everyone that halal and kosher meat be properly labelled, for the benefit of those who particularly want to buy it and those who particularly do not. Which consumers do the Government think will be disadvantaged by having meat fully and properly labelled at the point of sale?

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I am aware of the strength of feeling on the issue, and my hon. Friend has been a long-standing campaigner on it, ever since his ten-minute rule Bill two years ago. There are two difficulties with the approach he suggests. In the case of halal meat, we must remember that about 80% is stunned anyway, so “halal” does not distinguish between stunned and unstunned meat. When it comes to kosher meat, we should recall that the hind quarters of the carcase are not deemed kosher anyway, so an approach along the lines he suggests would not help consumers who want to avoid unstunned meat. However, we will examine method of slaughter labelling when the European Commission produces its report, which is expected in the autumn.

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Farmers and food producers raise the issue of labelling often with me and other Members. Can the Minister assure the House that his Department is doing everything it can to have clear labelling on all packaging, particularly after the horsemeat crisis and various other issues, so that we can have country of origin and even region of origin labelling on our packaging?

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Some new labelling requirements from the European Union have just been put in place, to distinguish between animals that are born, reared and slaughtered in a particular country, reared and slaughtered there or simply slaughtered there. That is a major improvement. We have stopped short of having compulsory country of origin labelling on processed foods, because the European Commission report suggested that it would be incredibly expensive to implement. However, we do encourage voluntary labelling on such products, and there has been widespread uptake of that.

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I am sure my constituents in Kettering would want to see halal and kosher meat labelled as such. Although the Minister is a good man, the response drafted for him by his Department was weak and pathetic. If we wait for the European Commission to rule, we will have to wait for ever. If his objection is that there is no distinction between stunned and non-stunned meat, why not label meat as such? Why cannot the UK do that ahead of the European Commission?

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The advice we have received is that it would be better to introduce such regulation at European level. A number of other countries have considered it, including Spain and France, and have run into difficulties. However, my hon. Friend makes a good point—if one were to introduce compulsory method of slaughter labelling, I think one would go not for labelling as halal or kosher, for the reasons I gave earlier, but for labelling as stunned or unstunned.