There is currently little consistency on origin labelling in the EU. Past BSE outbreaks have led to compulsory labelling on beef, but no such regulations existing for pork, lamb, dairy or some fruit and veg lines.
However this week the EC's Environment and Consumer Protection Committee voted narrowly in favour of amending Food Information Regulations to require the country of origin or place of provenance labelling on all meat, poultry, dairy, fresh fruit and veg.
It will also be compulsory for meat, poultry and fish when used as an ingredient in processed foods.
The issue will go to a full parliament vote at a plenary meeting in May or June, with legislation, if approved, likely to be introduced in 2011.
The move aims to stamp out confusion brought about by the 'last substantial change' rule, which allows meat products to be labelled according to the country where it last underwent a process. Under these rules, sausages produced in England using Danish meat could be labelled as British. The new rules would require the Danish meat to be identified on pack.
The NFU welcomed the decision. "Labelling has improved, but you still see great variety of labelling even within the same retailer," said NFU chief science and regulatory affairs adviser Helen Ferrier.
The UK pork industry last month agreed a voluntary code of labelling practice, with all the major supermarkets signing up.