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The government has echoed calls made last week by MEPs for the European Commission to introduce new country-of-origin labelling requirements on certain foods, and called for greater clarity on the matter.

In an official response to a Commons Efra Committee paper on farmgate prices published in March, the government said today (19 May) it would continue pressing the Commission to strengthen its mandatory country-of-origin labelling regulations for staple food products.

“Such rules could be expected to make clear that where an origin claim is made and the main ingredient is of a different origin, this must be stated,” it added, while applauding the strong track record of UK retailers, who had gone beyond minimum legal requirements “in many cases to give clear and accurate origin information on dairy and meat products.”

The government’s comments followed a vote in favour of a resolution by MEPs last week (422 votes to 159, with 68 abstentions), which reiterated the call for mandatory COO labelling for several kinds of dairy and meat products, and for the Commission to consider extending legislation to cover single-ingredient foods, or those with one main ingredient.

The Commission has yet to commit to a response to the non-binding resolution by MEPs.

The government’s response to the farmgate paper also pledged to “continue to work with the food industry - including supermarkets, retailers, manufacturers and caterers - on clearer displays and branding so it is easier for consumers and businesses to know when they are buying British produce.”

It is also working with the EU to see how the UK’s Groceries Code Adjudicator model could be used across Europe to improve transparency in the supply chain, it said, while acknowledging the Efra Committee’s calls for the remit of the GCA to incorporate both direct and indirect suppliers to UK retailers.

“The government recognises concerns about transparency and trust in the dairy and meat supply chains,” it said. “The GCA has an important role to play in changing behaviours and the overall culture of the sector. A review of the GCA is due this year and we will look at how this can help the farming industry.”