Clearly British campaign: Public backs clearer labels but EU politicians are not convinced

The European Commission this year rejected calls for mandatory country of origin labelling for dairy products.   Pic: AP/Yves Logghe
The European Commission this year rejected calls for mandatory country of origin labelling for dairy products. Pic: AP/Yves Logghe
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A MAJOR obstacle to clearer labels on dairy products is the reluctance of the European Commission to agree to mandatory country of origin labelling being adopted across the continent.

Farming leaders and UK government have lobbied hard for the compulsory rules but a report published by the Commission in May suggested 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.

But the report also states: “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.”

Recent shopper surveys in Britain offer a different take, not only pointing to growing sentiments for buying British products but willingness to pay more for them. The results of a YouGov survey commissioned by the National Farmers’ Union in February suggested 85 per cent of people agree that supermarkets should sell more food produced on British farms.

A separate YouGov survey suggested 85 per cent of people in Yorkshire believe it is important to buy locally sourced produce, while Mintel research showed 51 per cent of people who drink milk would be prepared to pay more than £1 for a four-pint bottle.

Mandatory dairy labelling would be the next logical step after compulsory country of origin labelling for unprocessed, fresh and frozen pre-packaged pork, poultry, sheep and goat meat came into force across Europe on April 1 this year.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We want our dairy industry to be a world-leading brand, achieving the very best price and exporting its high-quality produce across the globe.

“We are working with all sectors of the food supply industry to provide clearer and more consistent labelling for dairy products so consumers feel confident that when a label says ‘British’, they are buying British produce.”

For more reporting on our Clearly British campaign, click here.

And sign our petition calling for clear dairy labelling here.