Clearly British campaign: MEP to press commissioner on reluctance to mandatory labels

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CONSERVATIVE MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, Amjad Bashir, has vowed to meet personally with the EU’s Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan to tell him how unclear labelling is harming struggling dairy farmers.

Mr Bashir, who is backing The Yorkshire Post’s Clearly British campaign, said the dairy industry was the “only area of neglect” in terms of clear labelling and that shoppers and farmers deserved much better.

Amjad Bashir MEP.   Pic: Tom Maddick / Rossparry.co.uk

Amjad Bashir MEP. Pic: Tom Maddick / Rossparry.co.uk

The European Commission rejected a proposal to introduce mandatory country of origin labels on dairy products earlier in the year, on regulatory and cost grounds, a decision that Farming Minister George Eustice said he did not accept.

Despite origin labels being made compulsory on a wide range of meats, under current rules dairy products can be labelled as produced in whichever country they were processed last, rather than according to where the milk is actually from.

The Yorkshire Post wants clear, unambiguous labelling to be extended to all dairy products, including cheese, butter and yoghurt. This way shoppers can easily identify which items that they buy will benefit British dairy farmers who caught up in their worst cash crisis for a generation.

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A depressed average UK farm gate milk price of 23.61 pence per litre (ppl) masks even more cutting lows of 15-16ppl that some dairy farmers are being paid.

We want retailers, food processors and the wider food industry to take action but are committed to pressing the European Commission to reconsider its reluctance to mandatory labels.

Explaining why he was getting behind the Clearly British campaign, Mr Bashir said: “Congratulations to The Yorkshire Post for exposing this damaging anomaly.

“It is crucial that British shoppers should be told exactly where the ingredients for their dairy goods are sourced. The issue is important for the consumer and absolutely vital for our struggling dairy farmers.

“I will do everything I can to raise in Brussels the issues you have highlighted. I believe the Commission must be persuaded to think again on this issue of country of origin labelling.”

Mr Bashir added: “I’m going to speak to the Commissioner Phil Hogan. I’m going to bring up this matter with him and hopefully lead it to a very good conclusion.”

The UK’s Farming Minister Mr Eustice told The Yorkshire Post this week that as mandatory country of origin labels had now been introduced for beef, pork and poultry, he could not see why the same could not be done for dairy products.

As part of our campaign, we want a UK logo or label or the Union flag to only to be used on dairy products made with milk that comes just from cows that are milked in Britain, and for greater take up of the Red Tractor logo which is the only guarantee that a dairy product is made using just British milk.

We are also asking hotels, restaurants and caterers to commit to saying if the dairy products they are using are British.

Another of the region’s MEPs, the Conservative’s Timothy Kirkhope, is also backing our campaign, and said: “There is currently an over production of milk in the world but our producers are among the most efficient and our quality is the best so given a fair market our farmers and producers can be successful and profitable.”

Readers can add weight to our calls for clear dairy labels by signing our online petition which can be found here.