British meat flag

The EC has said it is not planning to ban the Union flag from British meat

The Union flag will not be banned from packaging of British meat products, the European Commission has said, as it attempted to clarify plans for country-of-origin labelling.

Last week The Grocer revealed Defra’s claims that voluntary labelling initiatives, such as flags, would fall foul of draft EC proposals for unprocessed pork, poultry, sheep and goat meat products.

But the EC today accused Defra of deliberately exaggerating the impact of its proposals and said it had no intention of banning flags.

The Commission added that the use of additional geographical labels such as Welsh or Scottish as well as private logos such as the Red Tractor logo would still be permitted.

“The Commission has no intention of banning flags and other logos on pre-packaged meat”

European Commission

“The Commission is looking to introduce clearer labelling of Member State origin,” a spokesman said. “That will make sure that when customers buy meat labelled as British they know it really is British and not, for example, just imported for slaughter. This will be done without placing unnecessary burdens on producers and retailers.

“Current discussions are focused on ‘compulsory rules’ for labelling of pre-packaged fresh meat – including the clearer specification of Member State of origin mentioned above. 

“The use of flags and private logos is a different issue. It will be covered under separate proposed rules on ‘voluntary labels’. This is because – while the Commission has no intention of banning flags and other logos on pre-packaged meat – it does not intend either to propose making them compulsory.”

A spokesman for Defra denied the department had exaggerated the fears, adding: “If what the Commission is saying is that these voluntary schemes will not be affected, then that is good news. It is something that they had not clarified last week when the draft proposals were announced.”

Jim McLaren, chairman of Quality Meat Scotland, said: “We welcome steps to introduce clearer labelling on meat products and we await with interest the outcome of current discussions at EU level on ‘compulsory rules’ for labelling of pre-packaged fresh meat, including the clearer specification of member state of origin.

“The good news is consumers are increasingly asking for more information about the meat they buy than simply country of origin and the industry in Scotland is in a strong position to answer these questions.”