Brands await impact of European food-label rules change

EU set to introduce new packaging regulations
EU set to introduce new packaging regulations

UK retailers and brand-owners have admitted that they are 'uncertain' about the impact that incoming European regulations on country of origin labelling on food packaging may have on product lines.

From January, under the Food Information Regulation, producers will be expected to begin displaying the country of origin of 100%-meat products.

The labels will indicate where all beef, pork, lamb, goat and poultry goods were reared and slaughtered.

An extension of the rules to include ready meals and dairy products such as cheese and yoghurts is currently under consideration.

In many cases, UK supermarkets have pre-empted the rules by forging a cross-industry agreement, supported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose have already signed up to the voluntary code, which means meat and dairy products have country of origin details displayed on their packaging.

However, the European regulations are likely to place equivalent demands on manufacturers, such as branded milk or cheese producers and ready-meal-makers.

The European Commission will report back in three years on whether to recommend an extension to 'milk', 'milk used in dairy products', and 'ingredients that make up more than 50% of the product'.

A Morrisons spokesman claimed there was a 'good deal of uncertainty' about how the rules will affect retailers. 'We are seeking more detail, but our main priority will remain the provision of clear information to customers.'

Producers will be given five years to implement the changes to their packaging.

IN MY VIEW EXPERT COMMENT

Andrew Opie, Director of food and sustainability, British Retail Consortium

"Major retailers know how important clear labelling is to consumers and don't wait for regulation to give more information on where the ingredients in their pies, ready meals and cheese comes from: they signed up to a voluntary agreement with the government last year. This ensures if we say the pie is British, the meat in it is also from Britain. The new labelling regulation affects only fresh meat, but the Commission will be reporting back on whether further country of origin labelling is justified."

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