Ely MP Launches Campaign For Clearer Supermarket Labelling

PUBLISHED: 17:26 24 February 2009 | UPDATED: 10:46 04 May 2010

MP Jim Paice

MP Jim Paice

A NATIONWIDE campaign for improvements to food labelling has been launched by local MP Jim Paice. Mr Paice, who is shadow agriculture minister, wants the EU to tighten up regulations governing the way food is labelled in our supermarkets. Under existing

A NATIONWIDE campaign for improvements to food labelling has been launched by local MP Jim Paice.

Mr Paice, who is shadow agriculture minister, wants the EU to tighten up regulations governing the way food is labelled in our supermarkets.

Under existing rules, food can be labelled 'Made in the UK', or 'British Pork', as long as it has been packaged in this country, but the animals involved could have been farmed as far away as Brazil or Thailand, where welfare legislation is more relaxed and meat can be produced more cheaply.

A spokesperson for Bruce Lucas, who used to keep a 7,500 strong pig farm near Little Downham, welcomed the campaign, but was not sure how influential it could be.

"We were doing this 10 years ago," said the spokesperson. "We went into supermarkets - we even took a pig to Westminster - but they are no further forward than we were then. You talk to shoppers in the supermarkets and they say they are going to buy British but if you follow them round, they are ruled by their purse - especially in today's climate."

The spokesperson continued: "The big five [supermarkets] only care about their profits - it's a big industry to take on - and the last thing people spend money on is food - everything else comes first - people who are buying golf and ballet lessons still buy the cheapest meat in the supermarket."

A bill to make country of origin labelling mandatory on meat products was published at this year's National Farmer's Union conference in Birmingham - and a parliamentary debate took place at 7pm on Tuesday.

Jim Paice said he wanted consumers to be able to make informed choices. "This is not about protectionism - honest labelling will empower consumers rather than restrict their options."

Ely Market Place butchers supported that view. John Cornwell of Bent & Cornwell said: "About three years ago we had foreign meat flooding the market - people didn't care where it came from as long as it was cheap. Many English producers went out of business, so the problem for us now is we have so few suppliers locally - except smallholders, that the majority of our meat comes from Yarmouth.

"It needs to be clear for the customer where the meat was slaughtered, born and reared," he added.

"Outside the EU, there is no way the abattoirs are of the standard of the UK slaughterhouses, and there have been concerns about pork rearing in Holland and Germany. The European Union should be a level playing field where they follow the same legislation as our farmers."

A Defra spokesperson said: "The Food Labelling Directive is not currently as clear as it needs to be on country of origin labelling and, as interpreted through international trade law, we cannot prevent people from labelling food according to country of last significant change. That's why we're seeking to have the law changed - and the current proposal from the Commission will tighten up these laws. Unfortunately that will take some time, which is why we're also seeking voluntary action at home."

She added that an EU-wide welfare labelling scheme proposals are expected to be published in 2010. "The UK fully supports the principle of providing clearer information to allow consumers to make more informed choices. However, we must be mindful that there are a number of ways of approaching this, and that there is also limited space on food labels (and we have no wish to increase the amount of packaging that is already used).

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