Food firms risk legal action over unclear labelling

THE Government will today make a plea to food firms to come clean with their labelling – or face being forced to do so in law.

Having launched their own "Honest Food" campaign in opposition through which they convinced several major businesses to make clear where food comes from on their labels, the Tories are keen to make sure all retailers and processors end the scandal of cheap foreign imports being passed off as British.

In backing for the Yorkshire Post's Clearly British campaign, Food Minister Jim Paice will push for a voluntary agreement with food firms today as he visits Melton Mowbray, home of the iconic pork pie.

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Mr Paice will say: "It is a priority for the Government to ensure that food labelling is as clear as it could be. I'm therefore calling on the industry to work with us to ensure that people can be confident about the origin of the products they buy.

"I've written to food industry leaders to emphasise that we want clarity and transparency for the consumers, who want to make a choice based on the origin of their food – particularly if they believe they're buying British.

"Some good work is already happening – for example the voluntary agreement agreed recently by the pig meat industry. Individual products such as Sainsbury's Steak and Cornish Ale Pasty and Asda Chicken Puff Pastry Pie have also been singled out as products which show clearly that the meat is British, and the product is made in Britain.

"Where our food comes from is increasingly important to us. I'm here in Melton Mowbray today to see how their pork pie and Stilton cheese industries have used their protected status to increase sales and consumer interest in their product, and the area it comes from."

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With many major retailers already on board, one of the Government's biggest challenges will be to convince smaller operators – particularly the catering industry – to co-operate.

British farmers are also penalised because they have to meet higher welfare standards – pushing up production costs – compared with other European countries.

Ministers want voluntary agreement in this country and are also backing new European Union rules to tighten up the regulations for labelling – but the Government will also consider pressing for compulsory action if operators fail to comply.