My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Defra has today issued advice to retailers and importers who wish to respond to consumer demand for information about the origin of food that has been produced in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
Importers, retailers, NGOs and consumers have asked the Government for clarity over the precise origin of products from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs). The label “West Bank” does not allow consumers to distinguish between goods originating from Palestinian producers and goods originating from illegal Israeli settlements.
Rules on the labelling of produce are set by the European Union and require that the place of origin or provenance should be supplied on foodstuffs where omission of such information might materially mislead the consumer about true origin or provenance of the foodstuff.
Since the “West Bank” is a recognised geographical area within the OPTs, labelling produce with the “West Bank” does not infringe EU labelling rules. However, retailers have informed us of consumer demand for more detailed information.
Therefore, in March, the Government arranged a roundtable discussion between interested parties to look at how retailers could make labelling clearer for consumers.
We have taken these views into account, and have today issued advice to retailers and importers. This will help them consider how best to respond to consumer demand for information about the origin of food that has been produced in the OPT.
The Government will keep their policy on labelling food imports from the OPTs under review, in conjunction with the European Commission and other EU member states, and in the light of developments in the Middle East peace process. The Government believe that the existence, and continued growth, of Israeli settlements poses a significant obstacle to peace in the Middle East. At the same time, the clear position of the Government is that we are opposed to boycotts of Israel or Israeli goods. We do not believe that boycotts help engage or influence Israel, or lead to progress in the Middle East peace process.
Copies of the advice will be placed in the House Library and on the Defra website.