Member states to agree on country-of-origin labels

Posted by Josette Dunn on 3rd December 2010

All lamb, pork and poultry sold in the EU will have to carry country-of-origin labels, according to an “informal” deal struck by member states.

Couple shopping for meat in a supermarket

Health ministers from the EU member states will meet on Tuesday (7 December) to formally agree on the plan, a Brussels official told just-food today.

The deal on country-of-origin labels forms part of the ministerial response to plans to reform food labelling in the EU.

The European Commission wants to increase the amount of information that is put on food labels, including the origin and the nutritional make-up of products.

In June, the European Parliament voted in favour of origin labels for all meat, poultry, dairy and other single-ingredient products.

MEPs also approved country-of-origin labelling for meat, poultry and fish used as processed food ingredients, albeit subject to impact assessments designed to protect manufacturers from excessive administration.

In the informal agreement struck yesterday, member states said they backed the use of origin labels for meat but insisted they want more information before agreeing to labels being placed on: meat used as an ingredient; milk; milk used as an ingredient in dairy products; unprocessed foods; single-ingredient products; and ingredients that make up more than 50% of a food.

On the topic of nutrition labels, in its June vote, the Parliament rejected proposals from left-wing groups to impose a traffic-light system on labels to indicate high, medium or low levels of salt, sugar and fat. Instead, MEPs voted for the mandatory use of guideline daily amounts, or GDAs.

Yesterday’s draft deal between member states also said the use of systems like traffic-light labels and GDAs was up to national governments.

In June, MEPs backed a proposal that the levels of energy, fat, fibre, protein, sugar, salt and unsaturated fat must be indicated on the front of food packs.

The deal struck yesterday called for the inclusion of fibre and unsaturated fat in the labels to remain voluntary.

If formal approval for yesterday’s draft agreement is given at the EU ministerial meeting on Tuesday, the proposals will then head back to the Parliament for a second reading. A firm deal could be reached in the middle of the next year.

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