Marks and Spencer continues with country of origin push

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 3rd December 2009

UK retailer Marks and Spencer is to begin clearly labelling dairy products with their country of origin from January.

The retailer claimed that it will become the first major chain in the UK to clearly state the source of all its dairy produce. The company already includes country-of-origin labelling for fresh fish and meat.

The policy means that all the fresh dairy products sold in M&S stores including milk, butter, cheese, cream, ice-cream and cream, and crème fraiche will be labelled with the country from where the milk is sourced and where the product is made.

The majority of M&S dairy products, the retailer said, are made using UK milk. However, continental products – such as French butter – are made using regionally-sourced ingredients.

Paul Willgoss, M&S head of food technology, said: “We know that it’s really important to consumers that they know where their food has come from and we want to make it as easy as possible for them to find out.”

M&S said that, where a dairy product is made in the UK and all the main ingredients are sourced from the UK, it will be labelled ‘Product of the UK’. Similarly, where all the main ingredients for a product are sourced, made and packaged in a single country, the food will be labelled as a product of that country. For instance, St Agur cheese will be labelled ‘Product of France’.

Where dairy products are made in the UK but foreign ingredients are also included, such as with a brandy butter, a declaration of ‘Made in the UK with British milk’ will be given – since brandy is not produced in the UK.

Under current labelling laws, supermarkets are under no obligation to state where dairy products originate.

However, in January, UK environment secretary Hilary Benn called for supermarkets and food companies to provide consumers with clearer information on the origin of food products.

Benn said that the UK government was pressing Europe to tighten labelling requirements, so that food manufacturers would be compelled to indicate where an animal was born, reared and slaughtered.

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