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Food Labelling

Volume 707: debated on Thursday 27 January 2022

Now that we have left the EU, we can review food labelling to make sure that consumers have the information that they need to make healthy and sustainable choices. We have already launched a consultation on animal welfare labelling, and we will consider the wider aspects of labelling in the coming months.

We know that our consumers want to buy British and buy Northern Irish to support higher animal welfare standards and our farming community, but sometimes they find food labelling confusing and misleading as to country of origin. What action have the Government taken to clarify the confusion? What steps will the Minister take, particularly with regard to making the technology even better in future?

Country-of-origin labelling must not mislead. If the main ingredient has a different origin—for example if a British pie has French meat inside—the label must say so. I have spoken to my hon. Friend about possible technological solutions to labelling issues, such as using QR codes, which can give consumers much more information about a product. We will continue to work on those solutions.

The Scottish Government—rather sensibly, I think—are awaiting the outcome of the EU review of genome-edited and genetically modified organism products, but the UK Government are pushing rapidly to introduce the production of genetically engineered crops and foodstuffs in England. Through the back-door route in the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020, they will enter the rest of the UK even if devolved Governments continue to prohibit them. Will any GE or GMO foods introduced in England be labelled as such so that consumers throughout the UK can make informed decisions about the food that they put in their mouth?

As I said, we are undertaking a comprehensive review of labelling; one issue that will be considered is whether a product is produced by GE, which probably will not happen for several years. The hon. Lady will know, although she opposes it, that we have made steps towards bringing in some GE pilots, which I think are going well. I look forward to working with hon. Members across the House on how to label such substances in future.