Government launches plans for ‘clearer and fairer’ food labelling

Environment secretary Steve Barclay has just announced plans to make food labelling “clearer and fairer”, as part of its commitment to back the British farming industry.

Environment secretary Steve Barclay has just announced plans to make food labelling “clearer and fairer”, as part of its commitment to back the British farming industry.

The proposal aims to give shoppers more information about how and where their food is produced and ensure British farmers’ products get the recognition they deserve, Defra says.

It would also ensure greater transparency around the origin of food and methods of production, helping consumers make decisions that align with their values.

The consultation looks at how to improve country of origin labelling for certain goods, including how and where this information is displayed and what products should be included.

Five-tier label

For example, if imported pork is cured into bacon in the UK and features a Union Jack, exploring ways to make it more obvious to consumers that the pig was reared abroad, such as increasing the size of the country of origin text, or placing it on the front of the packet.

It also sets out proposals to require ‘method of production’ labelling on pork, chicken and eggs. These include a mandatory five-tier label for both domestic and imported products, which would differentiate between those that fall below, meet and exceed baseline UK animal welfare regulations, which are some of the highest in the world.

The consultation was announced by the environment secretary at the Oxford Farming Conference in January and builds on commitments in the UK Government’s Food Strategy.

Rewarding British farmers

Environment secretary Steve Barclay.

Environment secretary Steve Barclay said that the government backs British farmers, who work hard to produce food to world-leading standards and maintain our nation’s food security.

He added: “British consumers want to buy their produce, but too often products made to lower standards abroad aren’t clearly labelled to tell them apart.

“That is why I want to make labelling showing where and how food is produced fairer and easier to understand – empowering consumers to make informed choices and rewarding our British farmers for producing high-quality, high-welfare food.”

The announcement follows recently announced measures including the largest ever round of farming grants announced by the prime minister at the NFU conference in February, an annual Farm to Fork Summit to increase industry collaboration, and new regulations to ensure fair and transparent contracts for dairy farmers.

Election manifesto

NFU deputy president David Exwood.

NFU deputy president David Exwood commented on the news: “Food labels must be clear, simple, and contain accurate information, including country of origin, to give shoppers easy access to the information they want, and for those that want to, select products produced by British farmers and growers which they know are traceable, safe and produced to high animal welfare and environmental standards.

“Those eating out-of-home should also understand the provenance and standards with which their food is produced.

“However, labelling on its own is not the answer to safeguarding our own high standards from imports that are produced under conditions that would be illegal in the UK. That is why one of our asks in our election manifesto calls on the next government to enshrine a set of core environmental and animal welfare standards in law for all agri-food imports.”

Mr Exwood added that the NFU will “look closely” at this consultation and seek the views of their members before responding.

Support for nature-friendly farmers 

Martin Lines, CEO at the NFFN.

Martin Lines, CEO at the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN), added: “We welcome this consultation and the effort to make food labelling clearer and fairer for farmers and for consumers who want to know more about the food choices they are making.

“Having a clear, regulated food labelling system can support nature-friendly farmers by giving proper recognition to food production methods that are helping to rejuvenate our landscapes for nature and the climate.”

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