New guidelines over country of origin labelling have been published, formalising industry standards for a host of meat and dairy products.

The Principles on Country of Origin Information were developed by the British Retail Consortium in association with manufacturers, caterers and the hospitality trade.

The voluntary guidelines say only meat from animals born and rearered in the UK can be called ‘British’. Dairy products labelled as British must be made from milk produced here.

Publication of the guidelines comes after farming minister Jim Paice last month ruled out legislation making country of origin labelling mandatory.

“This guidance formalises an approach to country of origin labelling which Britain’s large retailers have already agreed,” said BRC food director Andrew Opie.

“We believe it’s important all elements of the supply chain, from food processors and restaurants, right through to the catering firms working for government and councils, give consumers the information they need to make informed decisions.

“Supermarkets are making it easy for those shoppers who want to buy British to do so. Other food service providers need to up their game.”

Welcoming the new guidelines, Paice said: “I’m delighted to see the food industry come together to build on good progress already made in labelling food with the country of its origin.

“A large number of food companies have already committed to follow the principles agreed today and [it is] encouraging others to also do so. These principles will mean a consistency of information that will reduce confusion and ensure British consumers will be the best informed in Europe.”

Julian Hunt of the Food & Drink Federation added: “We agree that consumers should not be misled with regard to the origin of a food product and our members are committed to providing clear, honest labelling. The new voluntary principles build on current legislation to provide even clearer labelling for consumers.”

Read more
Paice dampens hopes of mandatory origin labels (30 October 2010)
Forget stickers: here comes tattooed fruit (16 October 2010)
Defra steals march on EU with origin labels (18 September 2010)