While the horse meat scandal of 2013 may be in the past, consumers haven’t forgotten the breach of trust. The shockwaves are still well and truly present, with many Brits and Europeans still reluctant to purchase meat or products containing meat from the supermarket. The industry knows that confidence has to be restored and a new venture from the European Commission (EC) could be the answer.
This year, mandatory country of origin labelling (COOL) could become compulsory if the European Commission gets its way. Members of the European Parliament advocate that the introduction of COOL laws is the key to restoring consumer confidence in meat products and avoiding future food fraud incidents.
Consumers back the new bill
Consumer group Which? has revealed that consumers are largely behind COOL, with a recent survey indicating that 87% of respondents backed the movement. “Our survey shows that one of the main reasons people want to know about the origin of produce, including meat, is because they want to buy British,” says Which? Chief Policy Advisor Sue Davies. As well as supporting the British economy, home-grown produce also gives consumers the peace of mind that they’re purchasing premium quality food that’s 100% safe for consumption.
Opposition from manufacturers
While the concept does have enormous benefits for consumers, manufacturers aren’t as enthusiastic. There is a large contingent that argues the cost of introducing COOL legislations would be prohibitive. According to the EC impact study it would cost manufacturers an extra 20 – 30% to comply while governments would incur costs of 10 – 25% in regulation.
Could voluntary compliance be the answer?
Provision Trade Federation takes a more lenient line, maintaining that COOL should be voluntary. This way, consumers can choose whether or not they value the inclusion of origin labelling, and purchase accordingly. PTF Director General Terry Jones understands the concern, explaining that “Although PTF supports the requirements of the Food Information for Consumers Regulation, which ensures that misleading statements of origin are not made, we consider any extension of the legislation to require origin labelling of meat as an ingredient would be burdensome to achieve, increase costs and further complicate the label.”
While no final decisions have yet been made, food manufacturers are being urged to engage as much as possible in order to make their voices heard in the lead up to the ultimate verdict. Stay on top of labelling laws and procedures with the Allergen Management and Labelling module from QADEX.