Under current European Union (EU) labelling regulations the country shown on a food label refers to the place the product was last processed, not where it was produced.
A labelling loophole allows grocery chains to mark products as “Produced in the UK” if the last significant change to it took place in Britain, even if the main ingredient comes from abroad.
So supermarkets for instance can sell sausages “made in Britain” using cheap Danish pork and legitimately label them as British sausages. They can legally label chicken sandwiches as “Produced in the UK”, even if the chicken has come from intensive poultry sheds in Thailand, because they have placed the chicken between bread.
Clear and transparent labelling on all meat products sold in the UK is essential so consumers can make informed choices and have confidence in the products they are buying. British farmers are subject to some of the highest animal welfare and production standards in the world, not just within the EU.
Using the Pig industry as an example:
More than 90 percent of UK pig meat is produced under the auspices of farm assurance schemes, e.g. Assured British Pigs. These schemes have defined written welfare standards which are audited by independent annual inspection and quarterly visits from a veterinary surgeon. 70 percent of pigs imported to the UK did not meet UK minimum legal standards.
The UK has a higher cost of production than most countries within the EU. Research shows the cost of production was 12 percent higher in UK than the EU, and more than 60 percent higher than in North and South America. World Trade Organisation rules are generally interpreted as precluding any trade restrictions on the basis of animal welfare standards, placing the EU and UK in particular at a significant competitive disadvantage!
Food retailers could play a major role in ensuring all food sold in the UK meets UK production standards. Because food is not labelled according to its welfare provenance, then concerned consumers are not able to exercise their choice and may, unwittingly, purchase products that do not meet their requirements.
Below are some major food retailers labelling cons:
ASDA - 6 mini pork pies - These Pork pies were produced in the UK, however the meat is from anywhere inside the EU.
Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the Difference’ - Spaghetti Bolognese - From the front of the label the consumer is led to believe the beef in the Bolognese is from Scotland… However the fine print on the back says that it is also produced using Italian, German and French pork.
Tesco ‘Finest’ - British Butter Roast Turkey - This butter roast turkey is marked as British and even has a British flag on the label… However turn over and you find out that the turkey in the product may have been slaughtered in the Republic of Ireland.
Tesco - Lincolnshire 6 Sausage Rolls - These sausages rolls are clearly marketed as coming from Lincolnshire… But the meat can come from anywhere inside the EU – that’s 27 possible countries.