Politicians have urged European leaders to re-examine the case for country of origin labelling on the packaging of processed foods - such as butter and cheese - delivering a major boost to The Yorkshire Post’s Clearly British campaign.
A motion was tabled at the European Parliament on Thursday by seven MEPs - including representatives of the South West of England and the East Midlands, as well as other countries such as Italy, Finland and France.
It pleaded with the European Commission to reconsider its rejection of extending origin labels to processed foods - information that The Yorkshire Post contests is holding British consumers back from easily identifying how they can support British dairy farmers at a time when their support is so important to the industry’s very survival.
A report presented by the Commission this time last year stated that financial factors were partly the reason why mandatory origin labelling was not, in its view, appropriate for dairy products EU-wide.
The report quoted survey results which showed 84 per cent of EU citizens considered it necessary to indicate the origin of milk, whether sold as such or used as an ingredient in dairy products.
However it also stated: “Most (consumer surveys) also show that there are significant differences in consumer preferences between Member States and discrepancy between consumers’ interest in origin labelling and their willingness to pay for that information. Therefore, in spite of their interest to be informed, consumers are not necessarily ready to buy products at a higher cost to have that information.”
This vote is good news for consumers, our dairy sector and a real boost for the Clearly British campaign.Amjad Bashir, Yorkshire and Humber Conservative MEP
But it seems many MEPs reject those findings. This week’s motion - to which EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan will now consider whether to respond - attracted 422 votes in favour, 159 against and 68 abstentions.
Yorkshire and Humber Conservative MEP, Amjad Bashir, supported the motion and highlighted The YP’s Clearly British campaign in a speech to the chamber afterwards.
in a speech to the chamber afterwards said: “I voted in favour of the country of origin resolution along with my fellow Conservative MEPs and I am very pleased to see it passed.
“The Yorkshire Post, in my constituency, has been campaigning to address the current situation whereby dairy products made with foreign milk can be labelled as British. Consumers want to support our dairy farmers but they can only do that if food is clearly labelled, and after today’s vote the Commission must sit up and react. This vote is good news for consumers, our dairy sector and a real boost for the Clearly British campaign.”
The YP’s Clearly British campaign calls for all retailers, food processors and the wider food industry to clearly label dairy products with where their milk is from.
Under current EU rules, dairy products that are manufactured in the UK can be labelled as ‘UK’ even if the milk is not from British cows.
Mandatory dairy labels would be a logical next step after they were made compulsory for unprocessed, fresh and frozen pre-packaged pork, poultry, sheep and goat meat from April 2015.
FARMING UNION WANTS LABELS REVIEW
Prior to the European vote this week, the National Farmers’ Union lobbied every UK MEP to encourage them to back the motion.
In a note circulated to the UK’s EU politicians, the union said: “It is essential that consumers making a food purchasing decision should have clarity on the origin of their food, if any value is to be returned back to farmers.”
While the NFU agrees with the Commission that extending origin labels to all processed food, it believes “there is a case for making meat and dairy a priority, and we call on the Commission to revisit these sectors”.
After the motion was passed in the European Parliament, the union’s food chain adviser, Lorna Hegenbarth, said: “I am very pleased that Members of the European Parliament have supported the NFU on clear dairy labelling. We have been working with MEPs on this for a long time - in particular Glenis Willmott MEP and Julie Girling MEP – and it is positive to see the Parliament taking a stance which could so clearly help both farmers and consumers.
“We know that UK shoppers want to know where the milk comes from in their dairy products, for example, but that’s not always possible with confusing labels. I very much hope to see the European Commission engage positively following this vote to ensure that consumers can buy British dairy and meat products with absolute confidence.”
SIGN THE CLEARLY BRITISH PETITION
To put pressure on retailers, food processors and the wider food industry to clearly label dairy products with where their milk is from, The Yorkshire Post is asking readers to sign its petition, which can be found here.